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F.R.G.S., F.R.A.I, 









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In preparing this volume, to which he has asked me to 
contribute a preface, Mr. Rattray has performed a consider- 
able service to those of us who are interested in the Tshi- 
speaking people of the (Jold Coast, or who are concerned in 
the administration of their affairs. He has blazed for us 
a track through a wilderness which has so far been very 
imperfectly explored, and has thereby opened the way to 
further discoveries. 

Much has been said and written concerning the difficulty 
which the European mind usually experiences in compre- 
hending the mentality of Orientals, but it is probable that 
the difficulties which beset a student of West African 
thought are far greater than any which are experienced in 
Asia. Orientalists of many nii^ions have been engaged for 
centuries in interpreting the East to the West, and their 
efforts, more especially during the past fifty years, have 
been attended by a certain measure of success. All the 
great literatures of Asia are to-day accessible to European 
scholars, and familiarity with Oriental languages is now 
common. The philosophies of Asia have not failed to make 
their strong appeal to many Europeans, in spite of the fact 
that they are, in the main, distinctive products, dissimilar 
from anything which the West has evolved on its own 
account. In the same way, democratic theories of govern- 
ment, which may be regarded as being in some sort the 
exclusive product of the European intellect, have recently 

A 2 



seemed to hold for modem Asiatics, who have been influ- 
enced by Occidental education, a very special fascination. 

The literatures which enshrine the highest thought of the 
East are, however, little known to the rank and file of any 
Asiatic people. They are the fruit of exceptional minds, and 
as such they are for the most part appreciated by those who 
are themselves exceptional. A far more faithful mirror of 
the popular mind is to be foimd in the proverbial sayings 
with which the vernacular languages of Asia abound. In 
the East, the every-day talk of even the most illiterate 
peasants has what may be called, for want of a more 
exact term, a certain * literary' flavour. The attitude of 
mind of the average Oriental is one of innate conservatism. 
Decrying the present, he is filled with an immense reverence 
for the past and for the wisdom which has been transmitted 
to him by unnumbered and forgotten generations. An 
ancient proverb accordingly possesses a peculiar force and 
cogency in the general estimation by reason of its antiquity, 
and is apt to be accepted as a conclusive summing up of 
any discussion upon which it bears. Thus it comes to pass 
that the man who can quote has in debate among Orientals 
a distinct advantage over the man who relies principally 
upon argument. And the number of these proverbs is as 
large as their use is constant. The speech of the average 
Asiatic peasant is, as it were, a sort of mosaic composed of 
these aphorisms; his mind passes from one to another of 
them, as pieces are moved upon a chess-boai-d ; his thought 
is at once guided and confined by them ; and it is not too 
much to say that no one can use a vernacular language of 
the East with force and finish unless these wise saws have 
become for him part of his mental furniture. From them, 
moreover, far more than from the literatures of Asia, is an 


understanding to be gained of the soul of the people, their 
character, and their philosophy. 

If this be so in the East, it is pre-eminently the case 
in West Africa, where no literatures exist to record the 
matured thought and wisdom of the finest local intellects 
which the centuries have produced ; wherefore a study of 
the proverbial sayings of the natives here furnishes the 
principal, if not the only, means whereby an understanding 
of their chara/Cter and mentality may be acquired by 
Europeans. It is this fact which gives a special value 
to books such as this which Mr. Rattray has compiled. 

To any one who is acquainted with the proverbial wisdom 
of the East, the present collection will appear to lack the 
epigrammatic crispness of thought by which the former is 
characterized. This perhaps indicates that the mind of the 
people whose sayings Mr. Rattray is interpreting for us 
differs from our own more fundamentally than do the 
minds of the peoples of Asia. Many of the aphorisms will 
be found to be somewhat cryptic, and it is rather daunting 
to find the curt dictum that * When a fool is told a proverb, 
the meaning of it has to be explained to him '. If this — 
which is apparently axiomatic to the Tshi-speaking native 
of West Africa — be applied to the student of Mr. Rattray's 
book, few of us, it is to be feared, will escape conviction of 
folly. On the other hand, many of the wise saws appear to 
the European mind as so trite and obvious that we should 
hardly esteem them worthy to rank as proverbs at all. At 
the very outset, therefore, we discover indications of a wide 
discrepancy of mental outlook and appreciation between 
ourselves and the people who have evolved these aphorisms, 
— a discrepancy which seems to exist not only with regard 
to that which to us is obscure and to them self-evident, 


but also with regard to what they recognize as wisdom 
and we should be inclined to class as banal truism. Both, 
I think, should whet our curiosity, and neither should 
excite our derision. Our task is to endeavour to understand 
the workings of the minds by which these sayings have 
been evolved and of the minds which have adopted them as 
expressions of the collective experience of a people. To 
this end nothing can be discarded as unworthy of consider- 
ation because it chances to strike only a faint answering 
chord in us. It is to those who are prepared to approach 
this study in a spirit of earnest and patient inquiry that 
I commend Mr. Rattray's collection of proverbs. 



August 8, 1914. 





In the year 1879 a book of Tshi Proverbs was published 
by the Basel Evangelical Missionary Society. This work, 
^ which was edited by the late Rev. J. G. Christaller, con- 

tained some * 3,600 proverbs in use among the negroes of 
the Gold Coast, speaking the Asante and Fante language *. 

The collection, to use the words of the compiler, consisted 
of proverbs/ ' taken down by the misaicmariea tJiermelves 
from the oral communications of certain elders or of other 
old or younger peoplCy or were written by native am^stants 
who iTicreased their previous knowledge by learning from 
experienced countrymen \ 

The book in question is entirely in the vernacular. It 
does not contain any translation, notes or other explanatory 
matter, though had the Editor (the Rev. J. G. Christaller) 
lived he would have ' added a translation and explanation 
to the proverbs '. 

To the present writer (who, during his four years of 
service in Ashanti, had acquired a colloquial knowledge of 
the language), it seemed a misfortune that such a store of 
interesting and valuable material, and so much ' udt and 
wisdom \ should have been, for over thirty years, buried in 
the comparative obscurity in which such a work must 
needs lie. It must literally be a closed book to all but 
a very few persons, confined in this case to those mission- 
. aries of West Africa, who can understand and speak the 
T^i or Ashanti language, and to their native teachers and 
scholars. The present writer, therefore, wrote to the Basel 
Missionary Society and asked permission to translate some 
of these proverbs. Sanction was most kindly given by the 
Rev. B. Groh. It is therefore to the Basel Mission in 
general, and more particularly to the late Rev. J. G. Chris- 
taller (whose name is worthy to rank with that of the late 
Dr. Clement Scott, and with that of Mr. A. C. Madan, in 


the field of African linguistic research), to whom any 
thanks from the larger public are now due. The task of 
the present writer has been that of commentator and 
translator only, from the materials collected by these 

The eight hundred odd proverbs given in the present ' 

work have been selected chiefly with a view to showing : — ' 

1. Some custom, belief, or ethical determinant pure and ^ 
simple, which may be of interest to the anthropologist. 

2. Some grammatical or syntactical construction of 
importance to the student of the language. 

The notes that are added after ea/Ch proverb are also for 
these two classes of readers. 

The writer would crave the pardon of the former class 
of student for these brief notices, which are only intended , 

to ' help out ' or explain a proverb when necessary. Any 
attempt to go very fully into customs which a particular 
saying touches on, is beyond the scope and object of the 
present work. 

An almost literal translation of ea/Ch proverb has been 
given, as this work is intended primarily for students of the 
language. Some attempt has been made to group the 
proverbs chosen from the original work (in which all are • 

alphabetically arranged) under the various heads, suggested j 

by the person, animal, object, custom, virtue, or vice, &c., 
round which the saying is woven. 

The numbers given at the end of each proverb are those 
under which they will be found in the original collection. 

From the environment in which these proverbs were 
first collected, one might suppose that they would not be 
entirely free from missionary influence, hence the present 
writer thinks that a few remarks concerning the people 
whose sayings are here recorded seem somewhat necessary. 
Of the 3,600 proverbs examined some few seem to bear 
traces of European influence. All such have been omitted 
from the present work. In translating such as are here 
chosen, in no single case has reliance been placed on the 
writer's own knowledge of the language alone. 



Every saying has been verified and re-verified by actual 
inquiry among the Ashantis themselves. The result of 
these investigations has been peculiarly instructive. All 
the proverbs herein contained are household words among 
the old people^ whereas to the younger rising generation of 
educated or semi-educated natives they are often unknown, 
and even when repeated to them, unintelligible in many 
instances. Further reliance, moreover, may be placed in 
them when it is remembered that this collection was 
gathered more than thirty years ago, at a time when 
education and European influence was not so widely felt as 
is the case now. Again, the field of inquiry wherein the 
present writer has sought for widespread verification of 
each and all of these sayings is not even that in which they 
were originally collected. The dense Ashanti forest north 
of Coomassie must have been a terra incognita to the 
white man in those days, and it is here the writer's lot is 
cast. It is difficult to realize that it is little more than a 
decade since the first European resident came to Coomassie. 
These people, the true Ashantis of the forest country, 
present the anthropologist with a peculiarly interesting 
and hitherto perhaps neglected task. The general idea 
would seem to be that this is a field of research that is so 
well trodden by alien feet as to offer little chance or oppor- 
tunity of retracing thereon the tracks left by the original 
husbandmen. They have been described by Ellis, and 
Bowdich, and Cruikshank, some will say. They have been 
contaminated (for to the anthropologist all civilization 
affecting his *pet' people or tribe is contamination) by 
centuries of civilization, French, Portuguese, Dutch, and 
English. But in arguing thus, are they not being confused 
in the popular mind with the natives of the Gold Coast, 
with whom, it is true, they are politically one ? It is further 
contended that they must be very far removed from that 
pristine state which would entitle them to be called a 
' primitive ' or perhaps even a * barbaric ' people. A casual 
acquaintance with them, which is the most that a person 
can ever hope to have, who does not speak their tongue. 


will show that they had a more or less elaborate and highly 
developed system of government, that they were armed 
with guns, and that they wore clothes. These indications 
of European influence that have filtered through from the 
Coast Belt proper, from which region, as already suggested, 
Europe seems to have derived most of its ideas of the Gold 
Coast native, are in reality little more than the thinnest of 
thin veneer. Old and time immemorial customs and beliefs 
lie here very close to the surface and even at times right on 
the top. The investigator needs only to have that collo- 
quial knowledge of the language which alone is the * Open, 
Sesame ' to the native heart and mind. 

Mention has been made of the Ashanti forest ; this has 
not only served these people as a natural stronghold against 
their enemies (and incidentally perhaps given them a repu- 
tation as warriors which they might not otherwise have 
gained) but has also reared itself as a barrier against 
culture and influence from without. In remote forest 
villages, where generation after generation must have 
lived and died, and carried on custom and tradition from 
some very distant period,^ the faint echo of the outside 
world is barely felt, or heard, or heeded. Moreover it must 
always be remembered in dealing with signs of European 
influence among the Ashantis that any such influence has 
not, in the past, been acquired by direct contact with a race 
that had settled and conquered among them (as is the 
record of Coast civilization), but rather that the foreign 
elements in their social system had been voluntarily adopted 
by themselves as conquerors, rather than as conquered. 
A few words .may also be said about ' the high gods * or God 
of these people, the Onyd/mS, or Nyankopgn^ that figures in 
so many of the sayings which follow. That He is not 
a product of missionary influence^ as Ellis would have us 
believe,^ the present writer is absolutely convinced. The 

1 The writer has dug up neolithic axe-heads in and near many Ashanti 
villages. Vide paper on the Ejura celts by Professor H. Balfour in 
October 1912, Journal of African Society. 

' Vide The Tshi-Speaking Peoples qfthe Gold Coast, chap. iii. 


late Major Ellis, with all due acknowledgement to his great 
ability in this field of research had not, as far as can be 
judged from his writings, even a pretension to be an 
accomplished linguist in the Twi or Ashanti language, and 
must have relied for much of his information on his inter- 
preters. Again, he was dealing with a people who had been 
under the influence of civilization for hundreds of years, 
and must have so continually been confronted with evidences 
of this contact that he would be perhaps all too ready to 
class as exotic the faintest suspicion of any similarity in 
the native customs and beliefs to those of the European 
with whom they had so long been in direct communion. 

What the present writer has found to be the case with 
regard to most of these sayings, namely that they appear 
known to the old Ashanti men and women, and strange or 
unknown among the young and civilized community, he 
has also found to be the case with reference to all inquiries 
concerning their belief in a Supreme Being. The most (as 
one would suppose) bigoted and adverse to all Christian 
influence will be the fetish priests and the old people, who 
are content to live their lives in the remote * bush ' villages, 
not mingling with, or caring about, the new world which 
id awaking for the younger generation ; but it is this very 
class, among whom the writer has many real friends, who 
are surprised if one questions their right to possess and 
have possessed their own High God; yet this belief in 
a Supreme Being marches side by side with that mode of 
thought in which mankind, the beasts, and, to their mind, 
animate nature, are all very much akin. That the present 
religion (using that word even in the wide sense of Taylor's 
' minimum definition ') of these people, which is known by 
that much misleading term ' fetish worship ', is a degenerate 
form of some much higher cult, perhaps even monotheistic, 
seems to be indicated. 

These few words the present writer has felt in duty 
bound to say, lest the reader, astonished at the words of 
wisdom which are now to follow, refuse to credit that 
a * savage ' or * primitive ' people could possibly have 


possessed the rude philosophers, theologians, moralists, 
naturalists, and even, it will be seen, philologists, which 
many of these proverbs prove them to have had among 

These sayings would seem to be, to the writer, the very 
soul of this people, as of a truth all such sayings really are. 
They contain some thought which, when one, more eloquent 
in the tribe than another, has expressed in words, all who 
are of that people recognize at once as something which 
they knew full well already, which all the instinct of their 
lives and thoughts and traditions tells them to be true to 
their own nature. 

In most cases these sayings explain themselves. Perhaps 
one man will give one interpretation, one another, even 
in the same tribe. One of another race will almost cer- 
tainly give yet a third ; but, as the Ashantis themselves 
say, ' The traveller who returns from a journey may tell 
all he has seen, but he cannot explain all *. 

The writer is much indebted to His Excellency Sir Hugh 
Clifford, K.C.M.G., Governor and Commander-in-Chief of 
the Gold Coast Colony, for his recommendation that a sub- 
vention should be granted to assist in the publication of the 
present work, and also for the kindly interest and encourage- 
ment which he has so courteously shown its compiler. 
This is the second occasion on which the Colonial Govern- 
ment has by most generous grants assisted in the publica- 
tion of the writer's works, and he again has the honour 
to thank the head of that Government, the Secretary of 
State for the Colonies for his most generous recognition 
and encouragement of students of West African linguistics 
and folk-lore. 

Grateful acknowledgements are also due to the Delegates 
of the Clarendon Press, who have once more laid its com- 
piler under a deep obligation to them. 


The writer's sincere thanks are given to Mr. A. C. Madan, 
Student of Christ Church, Oxford, who has undertaken the 
revision of all the proofs and has, in the absence of the 
writer in Africa, seen the work through the press. His 
thanks are also due to Mr. Samuel Kwaf o of Mampon, West 
Africa, who has given him much help with regard to the 
language and customs of his people, the Ashantis. 

R. S. R. 
Jvly 7, 1914. 






A Belief in a Supreme Being, Onyhme, Nyankdjpon, Animism, 
Fatalism, Minor Deities and Charms, Tutelary Deities, 
Fetishism and Fetish Priests, Manes, Ghosts, The Soul, 
Death and Burial, Evil Spirits, Witches and Wizards, 
Soothsayers and Medicine Men . . . . .17 


Wild Animals, &c. : The Monkey, Elephant, Lion, Leopard, 
Antelope, Crocodile, Crab, Otter, Porcupine, Tortoise, 
Lizard, Snail, Snake 54 

Insects : The Spider, Fly, Ants 73 


Birds : The Hen and Cock, Vulture, Hawk, Parrot, Birds in 

general 79 


Domestic Animals : The Dog, Cat, Sheep, Goats, Cattle and 

Horses 87 


Mice, Rats, Animals the names of which are not specially 

mentioned ......... 93 

War, Fighting, Hunting, Guns, and Weapons . . 95 

Childhood, Youth and Inexperience, Age and Experience . 101 




Chiefs, Free-men and the Nobility, Slaves, The Family, 
Nationality, Parents and Relations, Women and 
Wives, Marriage, Birth 114 

Strangers, Europeans and Europe . . . . .142 

Hunger, Sickness, Medicine, Fear, Hatred, and Friendship . 146 

Folly and Wisdom, Truth and Falsehood, Poverty and Riches 162 

Fire, Water, Rivers, Rjiin .165 

Qeneral Precepts and Maxims . . . . . .171 



K Belief in a Supreme Being, OnyXme, Onyankopon, Animism, 
Fatalism, Minor Deities and Charms, Tutelary Deities, 
Fetishism and Fetish Priests, Manes and Ghosts, The Soul, 
Death and Burial, Evil Spirits, Witches and Wizards, 

Soothsayers and Medicine Men. 

!• Amaetereu), na Onyctmi ne panj/in, (2787) 

Of all the wide earth, the Supreme Being is the elder. 

Asase. Deriv. possibly ase, down, beneath, as opposed to osoi'o, 
above, the heavens {asase reduplication of ase). Here means the 
world, the earth, which is also expressed by tbiase=^owia ase, under 
the sun ; oima being again derived from root wi, seen in wirn^^wi- 
mu, in the firmament. 

Terew, May be either tal^en as an adjective, or, if the pronoun 
e is understood, as a verb, * is wide *. 

Na. This particle can often be rendered by the conjunction 
* and ', but is often used to give emphasis to a word or clause. 

Onyctm^. The late Major Ellis in his The Tshi- Speaking Peoi^Us 
of the Gold Coast of West Africa, writes as follows : ' Within the 
last twenty or thirty years the German missionaries, sent out from 
time to time by the mission societies of Basel and Bremen, have 
made Nyankupon known to European ethnologists and students of 
the science of religion, but being unaware of the real origin of this 
god, they have generally written and spoken of him as a concep- 
tion of the native mind, whereas he is really a god borrowed from 
Europeans and only thinly disguised. . . To the negro of the 
Gold Coast, Nyankupon is a material and tangible being, possessing 
legs, body, arms, in fact all the limits and the senses and faculties 
of man. » • For this reason no sacrifice was offered to him. . . 
There were no priests for Nyankupon . . . consequently no form 
of worship for Nyankupon was established. . . All the rites and 
practices peculiar to the worship of each deity had the sanction of 
years of tradition and custom, and it could not be expected that 
the people would be able to initiate new rites for a new deity. . . 
There were no priests for Nyankupon. . . ' 

Though perhaps scarcely within the scope of the present work, 

1698 -Q 


the writer can hardly allow these statements to remain unchallenged, 
as careful research has seemed to him so totally to disprove them. 
Now the first credentials the "present writer would ask of any one 
who was advancing' an opinion, as the result of independent 
research into native customs and heliefs such as this, would be 
the state of proficiency that the investigator had acquired in the 
language of the people whose religion and beliefs he was attempt- 
ing to reveal. 

The standard he would ask would be a high one. Had the 
investigator real colloquial knowledge of the language of the people 
whose inner soul he was endeavouring to lay bare ? Such a knowledge 
as is gained only after years of arduous study and close intercourse, 
a knowledge that will enable the possessor to exchange jokes and 
quips and current slang, and to join in a discourse in which some 
dozen voices are all yelling at once. Such a knowledge of a lan- 
guage is a very different thing from an academic acquaintance with 
it, which might fit the possessor to write an excellent grammar, 
dictionary, or some such treatise. 

Judged by such a standard the late Major Ellis must have been 
found wanting. 

Perhaps the person most nearly approaching to this standard 
was one of those very ^German Missionaries' whose evidence is 
BO lightly brushed aside, the late Rev. J. G. Christaller. This 
missionary pioneer, to judge from his works and local reputation, 
must have possessed a knowledge of this language and an insight 
into the minds of the Twi or Ashanti people that has possibly 
never been surpassed. 

Evidence from missionary sources is, however, rather unfairly, 
the present writer thinks, somewhat discounted, at any rate where 
questions of religion are at issue. Such being the caee the follow- 
ing brief notes, coming from one who has for several years 
studied this language and people, and who perhaps holds that tlte 
unseen and unknown are unknown and unknowable, may be worthy 
of some little attention as likely to be an unbiased report. 

The following titles are used by the Ashantis to designate some 
power generally considered non-anthropomorphic, which has its 
abode in the sky (which by metonymy is sometimes called after it). f 

The derivations given are those generally assigned by the 
natives themselves, but these cannot be absolutely guaranteed, as 
the correct ones. While entirely disagreeing with the theory 



that this * High God ' is the product of European (i. e. Dutch, 
Portuguese, or English) influence from the Soubhy i, e. the Coasty it is 
of course possible that it may trace its origin from a much remoter 
age and a wholly different influence. The Ashantis who came 
from the North, may have been influenced by the teachings of 
Mohammedans, and this ' Supreme Being ', OnyankGpon, Ony^m6, 
or whatever title he be known by, be not * the thinly disguised ' 
Jehovah of the Christians, but the Allah (which name was itself 
that of a famous 'fetish*) of the Mohammedans. But even this 
extension of some hundreds of years to the life of this * High God ' 
would hardly, in the writer s opinion, give him time to have 
become such a deeply-rooted part, the very centre in fact, of the 
religion of the Ashantis. 

The names then of this High God, Supreme Being, God, Creator, 
or whatever title we choose to assign to him, are : 

1. OnyhmJe, Deriv. given by natives, onycby to get, andm^, to be 
full, satiated, (by metonymy the sky, which is looked on as his abode). 

2. Onyarikopon, The derivation of this word as Onyhnte-nM-^pon 
(Ony^m^, alone, great one) seems borne out by noting the word 
in the Akyem dialect, where it is Onyan-koro-^pohj (Onyam^, one, 

3. Ttoeaduampan. The derivation of this is almost certainly 
twere-dtM-am^ygn (lean on a tree and not fall). 

4. Bore-Bore, Derivation ho ade, ho ode (make things, make 
things), Creator. 

5. Otumfo, Turnip power, to be able, and fo the personal suffix. 

6. OriyarOcopgn Kwame, That Onyankopon who was bom on 
Saturday, or came into existence on a Saturday. 

7. OdZmankonm, Deriv. unknown, but the word is used some- 
what as the equivalent of ' inventor '. 

8. Ananae koMrko. The Great Spider, see note on No. 175 on 

In Ash ant i, in remote bush villages, buried away in the im- 
penetrable forest, and as yet even untouched by European and 
missionary influence, it would seem incredible that the Christian 
idea of a one and Supreme Being should, if a foreign element of 
only some two or three hundred years' growth, have taken such 
deep root as to afl^ect their folk-lore, traditions, customs, and the 
very sayings and proverbs with which their language abounds. 
These proverbs and traditions, moreover, which speak of and contain 



references to a Supreme Being, are far more commonly known 
among the greybeards, elders, and the fetish priestly class them- 
selves than among the rising younger generation, grown up among 
new influences and often trained in the very precincts of a mission. 
Fetishism and monotheism would at first sight appear the very 
antithesis of each other, but a careful investigation of facts will 
show that here in Ashanti it is not so. 

The religion of these people has been shrouded in misunderstand- 
ing and obscurity, much of which has been caused no doubt by the 
name with which it has been stamped and branded, ' fetishism ' 
(Portuguese feittfo, French fetiche, from Latin facerey This name 
conjures up a picture of the worship of stocks and stones and 
hideous idols, yet minute inquiry will serve to show that the under- 
lying idea in these is almost monotheistic in its conception (see 
notes on No. 17, under gbosom). It may even have once been entirely 
so, if any reliance can be placed on the following myth which is 
universally known among the older people. 

Yen tete ahere so no Onyankopon wq fam anase gben yen kora. 
Sd here no nso aberewa hi rewq fujuo na tvoma a ode retog no 
kgpem Onyankdjmi, Na Onyankopgn kd kyere aherewa no 8e\ 
*Adenti na woreye me sd yi ? Senea waye nti metwS makg 8oro\ na 
ampa ara Onyankopgn. Twe kg aoro, 

* Long, long ago Onyankopgn lived on earth, or at least was 
very near to us. Now there was a certain old woman who used to 
pound her fufu (mashed yams, &c.) and the pestle (lit. the child of 
the mortar, as the Ashanti word means) used to constantly knock 
up against Ouyank5pon (who was not then high up in the sky). 
So OnyankSpon said to the old woman, " Why do you always do so 
to me 1 Because of what you are doing I am going to take myself 
away up in the sky ". And of a truth he did so/ (Lit. translation 
of above.) 

The myth goes on to relate how the people tried to follow him 
and bring him back. 

Na afeiy a nnipa ntumi mmen Onyankojygn hio, aherewa no kd 
kyeree ne mmanom nhtnd «c' monftbejwe nwaduru pli mera na 
momfa ntoatoa so nkg soro nkosi se eheto Onyankopgn, 

Na ampa ara ne mmanom no yee no sd, na wgde awadv/ru pi 
toatoa so, a ekaa hoM pe na adu Onyankopgn ; na nso hdko a aka 
no, won/nyd hi nti, wgh nana no, anase aherewa no, kd kyeree ne 
mma no se, * Monyi nea evog ase no, na momfa nkgkye soro de no md 


ennu \ Na ne rmaa no yii gwaduru no pe na nhtnd perew guu 
fam, a ehim nntpa pi. 

* But now, since people could no longer approach near to 
Onyankopon, that old woman told all her childien to search for all 
the mortars they could find and bring them, and pile one on top of 
another, till they reached to where OnyankSpon was. And so her 
children did so, and piled up many mortars, one on top of another, 
till there remained but one to reach to Onyank5pon. Now, since 
they could not get the one required anywhere, their grandmother, 
that is the old woman, told her children, saying, " Take one out from 
the bottom and put it on top to make them reach ". So her 
children removed a single one, and all rolled and fell to the 
ground, causing the death of many people^*^ (Many other legends 
could bo given, and the writer hopes to give a selection in some 
future work on the folk-lore of ..these people, the present volume 
being hardly the place for them.) 

To say, as the paragraph already quoted does, * that there were no 
piiests for OnyankSpon . . . consequently no form of worship was 
established ... no sacrifice was offered him', would seem to point 
to the fact that the writer must have been unaware of the very 
root idea underlying the supposed power of, and the rites performed 
in propitiation of, eveiy fetish or minor deity. So closely connected 
are the two, a Supreme Being on the one hand, and the cult of the 
hundreds of fetishes and minor deities on the other, right down to 
the suman (see note on No. l7,gho8om) in its lowest form, where it 
becomes the charm or talisman, that it is necessary to repeat here, 
in writing of Onyankopon, much that is written later under the 
heading of * fetish '. The connexion between a Supreme Being 
and a hideous blood-smeared idol or basin of bones, blood, and 
fowls' feathers seems remote^ but they are really very near akin. 
Ask any fetish priest, whom you have persuaded to allow you to 
visit the body of the particular spirit, i. e. fetish, of whom he is 
the custodian, (the body,' maxk you, for what you see as a wooden 
image or a mound of mud daubed with blood is exactly such to the 
fetish priest, save perhaps for the added awe or sanctity as having 
been in the past and being the possible future, not necessarily 
present, abode of a spirit), — ask him what his fetish really is, and 
whence it came, and from what source comes its power. And this^ 
is what he will tell you. 

His gbosoniy or it may be simian (see note on gbosomj No. 17), 


let U8 suppose for the sake of example, is a newly-captured deity, 
(the number of fetishes are probably being added to daily). He will 
tell you how it was sent by Onyankdpon or O^^y^ii^^ i^ ^ blinding 
flash of lightning, how he caught it and shut it in a gourd till 
he had prepared an acceptable dwelling for it» and let it get used 
to its new surroundings (just as one keeps a dog chained up 
perhaps for a day or so when taken away from his master, to a new 
home). If you ask what the ' it ' is he captured, he cannot tell, 
but will probably say vaguely * Onyankdpgn tumi \ or * honhgn ', 
that is, * the power, spirit, or mana of Onyankdpou '. And this is 
the supposed origin of every fetish ; they come from, and have their 
power only as part of the power ascribed to, Onyankdpon. He is too 
remote and too powerful to directly have dealings with mankind, 
but he distributes for their benefit a little of his power, and tliis 
spirit or mana or power is what is called down by servants specially 
trained to know its needs and tastes, and having found a faithful 
prie&t, and a tempoi*ary dwelling on earth, consents at times to live 
there, and be the intermediary between man and the Supreme Being, 
from whom it comes and of whom it is a part. This is what a fetish 
really is. It must be clearly understood, however, that the attributes 
we ascribe to God are wanting entirely from the native conception 
of Ony^^ ; he cares nothing for morals, and there i& no sign that 
any retribution follows for a good or misspent life, though the 
departed spirits of pei-sons who have lived on earth would seem to 
return to OnyankSpon to render some account before being allowed 
to enter the spirit world below, asaman (see No. 34, gsaman). 
Hence the expression waye Onyankopgn de, he or she has become 
OnyankSpon's, never gbosom de which would have no meaning to 
the native mind. 

It is thus seen that, indirectly, every fetish priest is a priest of 
Onyankdpon ; but direct service is also rendered. In every village 
in Ashanti may be seen a tree or stick terminating in three forks, 
which form a stand on which a pot or gourd is set. The name of 
this stick is OnydtmS dv4i, Onykm^'s tree. In the pot, dish, or 
gourd, are placed offerings for Ony^me. Again, a fetish priest will 
not infrequently appeal directly to Ony^me to give increased 
power to his fetish. The very name for a fetish, one that is often 
given, would also seem to prove its oiigin, Onyankopgn gkyeame, 
the mouthpiece of Onyankopgn (see note on No. 481, gmdmpdm). 
On the occasion of the installation of a new chief, a ceremony 


not likely to be readily influenced or changed because of contact 
with European influence, one part of the ceremonial consists in all 
the women and girls of the new chiefs family parading the town or 
village and singing : 

* Oseee / yd/* 

* Twead/uampofi eee* 

* Yedase o/* 

* Amen \ 

Oaeee^ {bg ose) is to ' shout '. Hence perhaps we can translate thus : 

* Hurrah, yei I ' 
' Yei ! ' 

* Supreme Being e e e ! ' 

* We thank you (lit. We lie down at your feet. See note on 
No. 712). 

* You who appeared on a Saturday.' 

One can readily imagine the casual student discarding the above 
with scorn on coming to the last word * amm ' which, were he not 
well versed in the Ashanti language, he would be excused in 
thinking to be the Heb. amm^ and the whole song would at once 
become stamped as having a Christian origin. 

Amen, or Am^e, is, however, pure Akuapem and Ashanti, and is 
derived from Memeneda, Saturday, and refers to the belief that 
OnyankSpon came into existence on that day. Again, every 
Ashanti man and woman knows that he or she has a direct appeal 
to Onyankdpon, not necessarily through the fetish priest, as would 
be the procedure were the fetish being appealed to. This is a well- 
known saying, Ohi kwan nsi (or ntwa) obi kwah mu, * No man's 
path crosses another man's path ', and here, although there is no 
direct mention of the Supreme Being, the universal interpretation 
of the saying given is, that * every one has a direct appeal to 
OnyankSpon '. See also note on twa. No. 507, where the fact that 
the name of the Supreme Being is among the words used by the 
drummers is noted. 

Ne. This particle or verb seems to give to the noun in ap* 
position with its subject a certain deflniteness which almost 
supplies the want of the English definite article (not found in the 
Ashanti language). Onyctme ne jxinyirii The Supreme Being is 
the elder, not an elder, which would be expressed by the verb ye. 

Fanyin. Deriv. nyin, to grow up (the word used for ' to reach 


puberty '), and a2)dy old, long lived. The word is used in various 
senses, e. g. one who is full of the wisdom of years of experience, 
and as a term of respect. The Chief Commissioner is the Oboroni 

2. Woj)e aha aaem ahyere Onyankopqh a, kd kyere mframa, (2656) 
If you wish to tell anything to the Supreme Being, tell it to the 

Wope. Fe, to wish or to want. This verb is either followed by 
the subjunctive as here, akd, akyerey or by the conjunction se, and 
the vei'b preceded by the pronoun. 

Onyankdpgn. See note on Onyhme above, No. 1. 

Mframa, Deriv. perhaps ^a, to mix, to stir up. 

8. Ohi nkyere ahofra gnyctmi. (227) 
No one shows a child the sky. 

Onyd/me. Here the sky, the abode of the Supreme Being. 
Little children who lie sprawling on their backs looking up to the 
sky do not need to have it pointed out to them, for they see it 
better than their elders. There is a rendering of this saying which 
one might be tempted to read into it, and which it may even 
possess, but as all the greybeards the writer has questioned do^ 
not see it in that light attention is merely directed to it, this is, 
* No one shows a child (points out) the Supreme Being, instinct 
tells him He exists ' (but cf. No. 7). 

4. Obi nkyere gtomfo ba atono ; onim atono a, Onyctme na gkyeree no, 

No one instructs the son of a smith how to forge ; if he knows how 
to forge, it is the Supreme Being taught him, 

Otomfo, A smith's anvil and tools are supposed to possess 
some peculiar power, and a smith's family will take an oath on 
them, and fowls are also killed and the blood sprinkled on the 
anvil. For suffix /o, see note on No. 78, kontronifu 

Na, See note above on No. 1, na, 

Okyeree, Past tense, seen in the lengthening of final vowel. 

5, Onyankdpgn ammd asonomjoa katakyi biribi a, gmda no ahodarman, 

If the Supreme Being gave the swallow nothing else, He gave it 
swiftness in turning. 


Aaonomfda, Also asomfihid, Katdkyi, a bold or brave person ; 
here a nick-name for the swallow. 

Omaa. Past tense. Amma is perfect. 

Afiddannan. Deriv. ho, and darman, reduplication of da/iy lit. 

6. Osansa ae, *Ade a Onyctme aye nhma ye \ (2777) 

The hawk (poised aloft) says, ' All things that tlie Supreme Being 
made are beautiful (good) '. 

Aye. Perfect tense. 

7. Me a 7neda ayannya minhH Onyankdjpgn, na wo a vmbutuw ho/ 

I, who lie on my back looking upwards, do not see the Supreme 
Being, so what do you expect who are sprawling there on 
your belly I 

Cf. No. 3, but in this case the Supreme Being is distinctly 
named and meant and not his abode, the sky, as in the other 

Ayannya, Deriv. yam, the belly, and agya, the side opposite, 
i.e. the back. 

8 . Onyankdpgn mpe asemmane, nti na okye din mmiakd-mmiakd. (2548) 
Because the Supreme Being did not wish any bad words, He gave 

a name to each thing, one by one. 

Asemmone. Asmi-hone, the h is elided and the consonant 
doubled. I^ti = eno nti. 

See the myth under note on kontromft. No. 78. 

9. Onyhmi nkrabea nni kwatihea. (2538) 

The destiny the Supreme Being has assigned to you cannot be 

Nkrabea. Deriv. gkra, soul, and hea, place or manner ; hence, 
destiny. The present writer has not seen it mentioned in the 
works of any previous writers on the natives of the Gold Coast 
that these natives, the Ashantis, are just as much believers in 
Kismet as a Mohammedan. The following seems the idea generally 
held. Each human being's destiny is preordained and the spirit 
sets out to enter its mother's womb already knowing its destiny. 
This has been given it by Onyauk5pQn, as the legend given later 
shows, ^nd is known to no one else, though it may perhaps be 


ascertained by consulting the fetish priest. ^ The word gkra may- 
be the same root as hra, to bid good-bye to. There is a well-known 
saying, Wokra Onyarilcdpqh a, obi nnyina ho, * When you take leave 
of the Supreme Being, no one stands by '. Where exactly this okra 
or soul conies from, when about to be rehom (for the idea of 
reincarnation is widely known and believed), is not quite clear. 
It would seem, however, to have come from (laamany the spirit world, 
a replica hdow the earth of the world we now live in (see note 
on No. 34 under gaaman). The reincarnated soul then takes its 
way to this world with its destiny already arranged. It is thought 
possible, however, for a man's destined hour of death to be cut short 
by an accident^ which somewhat contradictoiy idea of the original 
Kismet is, however, modified by the prevalent idea that any one who 
has thus been taken off before his appointed hour will not be 
received back again either into the asaman, or underworld, or by 
OnyankSpgn, to whom the gkra may perhaps first have to pass. 
Hence the saying: Onyhme ayi no, asamanfo ayi no, * The Supreme 
Being has driven him out, the spirit folk have driven him out '. 
This is said of a ghost which is constantly being seen. Such a ghost 
will eventually, after its destined time on earth has run, disappear, 
having gone to the world of the spirits, and such a ghost is not 
quite the same as osamcm-twenrtwen (q. v. No. 34, qsamaii). There 
seems a distinct difference between the okra and the gaaman. 
The latter can correctly be described by the word ghost or spirit. 
As long as a man is alive, his okra and how it is regarded is more 
or less clearly defined, but what exactly becomes of it after death 
according to the native idea cannot be clearly traced. There is 
nothing, let it be clearly understood, of spiritual or moral well- 
being attached to it. It is rather the bearer of luck, good or bad 
(see note on soul washing. No. 147, nni asiimguarede). 

This word ohra is also a common name for the cat (see note on 
No. 122, agyinamoa) and also means a slave destined to be buried 
with his master at death, which word and signification perhaps helps 
to throw some light on its meaning. 

The legend about destiny referred to above is as follows. 
Onyankdjioh gave a soul which was setting out for earth two 
bundles, a large and a slightly smaller one. The soul was told to 
hand over one of the parcels, the larger, to another soul which it 
would find on reaching the earth. The soul to whom these destiny 
parcels were given changed them, taking as its own the one it had 


been ordered to give up to another. On coming to the world 
the soul, now an incarnated one, found its parcel contained only 
rubbish, whereas the one (the wrong one) it had handed over to 
the other soul, contained nuggets and gold dust. In other words, 
the destiny of one was poverty, while the other was born a rich man. 
Nor does the story end here, for when the person died and returned 
to Onyankdpgn and complained of the fate that had been assigned to 
it in life, OnyavJcdjpgn blamed it for having changed these destinies, 
its own and that of another entrusted to it. This myth is of value 
as showing that the qkra is supposed to come from Onyankd'j^qn 
before the person is born and returns to him after death. 

Nni. Neg. of wq. 

Ktoatihea, Kwatiy to do without, to avoid, and hea, 

10. Asem a Onyctme adi asie no, gteasefo nnan no, (2855) 

The fate (lit. words) that the Supreme Being has beforehand 
ordained, a human being does not alter. 

Adi asie, Di asem sie, is * to speak words beforehand '. Note 
this idiomatic use of sie, to prepare, to express the idea of a thing 
being done in readiness or beforehand. 

Oteasefo, A person, lit. one who lives down, i. e. on earth. 

11. OnyanJcopgh nkum wo na gdasani {oteasefo) hum wOy wv/h/wu, 

If the Supreme Being does not kill you but a human being kills 
you, you do not die. 

The idea underlying this saying is perhaps explained by the 
belief noted above (No. 9), that should a person meet his death 
before the time prearranged for him his spirit continues to haunt 
this world till his allotted span is full, after which it has permission 
to depart to the spirit world. Again, it may simply mean, to 
exemplify the impossibility of a man avoiding his destiny ; and ' but 
a human being kills you ' may mean ^ tries to kill you ', when he 
fails to be able to do so, as Onyantopon had not yet ordained it. 

12. OnyanMpon hye wo nsa kora md na gteasefo kd gu a, ohyia too so 

bio. (2545) 
When the Supreme Being fills your gourd cup full of wine and 
a human being (comes and) pours it away, He will fill it up 
again for you. 



\ 13. Onyd/m^ ma wo yare a, oma wo aduru, (2540) 

If the Supreme Being gives you sickuess, He (also) gives you 

Aduru. Perhaps from root dtui, a tree, herb, leaf, medicine 
good or bad (poison). To aduru, to poison. Muduru = aiuo- 
aduru f i. e. gun medicine, gunpowder. 

14. Onydme na gwo basin fufu ma no, (2541) 

It is the Supreme Being who pounds the fufu for the one without 

Na, Here emphatic, see note on No. 1. 

Owq. Wo or v)gWy to pound in a mortar (owoaduru) with 
a pestle {owqmma = gwg 6a, * child of the pounding '). 

Basin, Deriv. ha^a^ arm, and «w, a fragment or part of any- 

Fufu, Deriv, fu^ white. Fufu is the staple food of the Ashantis 
(the nsima of the Mananja), yam or plantain pounded (first boiled), 
rolled into balls, and eaten with relish, meat or fish. 

Ma, Translated by the preposition * for ', but really a verb, * to 
give '. The language is entirely lacking in prepositions, the place 
of which are taken by verbs. 

15. Nnijpa nhina ye Onycimi mma, obi nye asase ba. (2436) 

All men are the children of the Supreme Being, no one is a child of 
the earth. 

16. Odomankom^d bg owu ma ovm hum no, (964) 

The Creator created death (only) for death to kill Him. 

Odomankonm, See note on No. 1, OnyhmL 

Owu, Death is personified among the Ashantis ns a skeleton, 
a skull with empty eye-sockets but having ears attached, (Hence 
attempts to bluff death as exemplified in Proverbs Nos. 59 and 60.) 

This saying illustrates in a wonderfully epigrammatic manner 
the power of death. 

1 7. Obosom a onnii guan da, ohu guan aniwam' mp^ a, ose, * Eye arade \ 

The fetish that has never had a sheep given to it, when it sees 
even the matter in the corner of a sheep's eye, says *It is 
a fat one \ 

Obosom, Commonly called a 'fetifch ' (Portuguese /e«<tfo, French 


fetiche^ both from Latin facere, as already noted, p. 20). 
derivation is very doubtful, a possible one being 060, a rock 
stone, and somy to serve. 

The word is generally applied by Europeans to the habitation 
. of the ' fetish '. This may be anything from a wooden idol to 
. a mountain or a river. A * fetish ' is a spirit or * power ' {iwmi) 
which has its origin from OnyankSpon (see note on No. 1, OnyhmJe), 
Fetishes are of various degrees of importance, some of merely local 
repute, others e. g. Tannq (q. v. No. 65) and Krakye Dente (see No. 
73), widely known. Famous * fetishes ', such as these two named, 
may have branch abodes in many villages, the priests of which are 
subservient to the high priest at the head-quarters of that particular 
cult. A fetish is not necessarily always occupying the abode, 
natural or artificial, which it is supposed to favour as its habitation. 
ut only comes and enters that abode when called by the priest, 
by the tinkling of bells and by his gyrations in the ceremonial 
dance. When thus summoned it will temporarily occupy the body 
prepared and made acceptable for it. It may even come and rest 
there of its own accord, but for all intents and purposes a fetish 
image, or rock, or tree, is nothing but an image, rock, or tree, till 
the priest, who is en rapport with the power or spirit which is 
known to have adopted one of these places as its abode, calls on 
it to come and enter it. Thus a * fetish ' cannot be stolen or dieT / 
An odum tree may fall down which was sacred as the known abode 
of this power. When that happens all it means is that the spirit 
or power will go elsewhere. So in war, if a fetish body (abode) is 
captured, that does not mean the fetish is captured. It is tem- 
porarily lost, no doubt, but its own priests may be able to make an 
acceptable home for it once more. 

Tit must be clearly understood that a ' fetish ' is not a spirit of 
one who has died, and their cult must not be confused with a form 
of manes-worship or propitiation which also exists} The writer 
only knows of one case where confusion might arise, where the 
spirit of a dead man is supposed to have entered a tree. At 
Abenne, in Kwau, the spirit of a chief, Mampon Adai, who is said 
not to have died, but simply to have disappeared, * entered a tree ' 
which for long after had offerings placed near it. In almost every 
case, however, where similar offerings are placed at the foot of 
a tree, one would be correct in supposing it was for a ' fetish ' and 
not for a spirit of one departed this life, nor has the writer found 



any trace of a preanimistic conception or animatism. ^ (Spirits of 
the dead are of course summoned and propitiated ; see notes on 
No. 36, osdmany and No. 388, akonnua.) 

It has been noted that some ' fetishes ', owing to the greater 
ability of their priests, no doubt, take precedence over others. 
There would also appear to be a lower grade, with more local, 
family, or even individual interests, which are known as suman. 
A sumaii may mean anything from a power, having as its abode 
some image, — ^undistinguishable often from that occupied by a 
fetish — to a little charm bound on ankle or wrist to bring luck 
to the wearer alone. A ewman would seem to deiive its power 
from the abosom^ just as the gbosom in turn gains its own from 
Onyankopgn. Thus we have the whole code of belief of these 
natives summed up as follows : 

1. Onyctme. A Supreme Being (see No. 1). 

2. Ahosom. * Fetishes ', i. e. spirit, power, mana from or of the 
Supreme Being. 

3. Svman, Minor deities, deriving their power from the 

4. Suman, Amulets or charms, a lower grade of the above (3). 

5. Asaman. A spirit world, inhabited by asamanfo spirits 
(see note on No. 34, gsaman). 

6. Bayifo, Witches and wizards, human vampires (see No. 

7. Bgnmm. Monsters, half human, half devil (see note on 
No. 56, scisahonsdm), 

* Fetishes ' are literally, * in thousands', as witness the common 
toast or incantation as the Ashanti man pours out a few drops of 
wine, — Abosonpem monsd, ' Thousand fetishes, your wine *. 

The writer will only name a few that are served in his own 

Many are followers of Taring &m] Krcikye Dente, Mpra^ Aped, 
Botoku, Ateko, Tarmg-Konkroma (a conjunction of two fetishes), 
Kompif Ohofiri. 

The local fetish at Ejura (Edwim, a plant, as the name really 
should be spelled), besides a branch of DenUy is Tanng Konkroma. 

There is also (at Ejura) a belief that the spirit of a former 
chief at Ejura entered a large bull elephant which still haunts the 
neighbourhood, and is known by having within the impiint of one 
of its feet the imprint also of the foot of a man. This shows that 


belief in transixjigration is not unknown, though this is the only 
case met with by the writer. 

Onnii, Neg. of wg. Note form of past tense, made by lengthen- 
ing of final vowel. 

Gtuxn. A generic term, embracing sheep and goats. When either 
is especially meant to be designated, then the words oguanten and 
€tbirekt/i are respectively used. 

18. Obosom a gye nnam na odi aboade, (616) 

The fetish that is sharp (clever at predicting events) is the one 
that has offerings vowed to it. • 

Na, Emphatic (see note on No. 1). 

Aboade. It is a common practice among these natives to vow 
offerings to their particular fetish or tutelary deity in the event of 
the requests which they make to it and promises given by it being 

19. Obo8<yin Kyere nantwiy tvgmfd mfa ahgntenf womfa mfa afikyiri^ nso 

ewg nea wode fd, (617) 
The fetish Kyere's cow is not taken down the street, and is not led 
behind the town, nevertheless a way is found to take it. 

Wgmfa mfa. The first verb is the auxiliary and the equivalent 
of de (in a positive sentence), the second fa is the finite verb. Note 
the de in wode, where the sentence is positive. 

20. Obosom anim, toghq no mperensd, (618) 

One goes before a fetish as often as one likes. 

Anim. Of. so in the proverb following. Anim^ here means to 
go before the fetish, of one^s otvn accord to consult it ; soj implies 
that the power of the fetish is invoked on or against the 

Wgkg no. Note the verb kg itself contains the idea of the pre- 
position that has in English to be expressed by, to. 

Mjpermsd, Li . three times, see note on No. 767. 

21, Obosom sOy yenkg no m2)erm8d, (619) 

One is not taken before a fetish a great number of times. 

So, See note above on anim, No. 20. 

The meaning is, that the fetish will sooner or later kill the 
person who is continually being brought up before it. 


22. Ahoaom na ^yerh dkomfo ntwaJw. (620) 

It is the fetishes who show the fetish priests how to tarn when 

Na, Emphatic particle, see note on No, 1. 

Akqmfg, Okomfo plur, akomfo ; feminine, qkomfo bd. More or 
less synonymous terms are gsofo, qhosomfo, 

Qkomfo is derived from kgm^ to prophesy, to predict, (also to 
dance). The okomfo is the priest to a * fetish ', he tends its abode 
and smears it with eggs and hlood, to render it acceptable to the 
spirit, power, or m>ana^ when it 'may he called on to com^ and occu2>y 
the receptacle prepared for it. 

The bowl, idol, pot, stone, &c., which the fetish may be called to 
enter is an emjyty nothing till the fetish priest summons the fetish 
to enter it. This he does by tinkling a bell, drumming, and, 
most important of all, by dancing. He will know when the spirit 
(not that of any man or woman of course) has taken up its abode 
in the body provided for it by being seized with tremblings and 

AVhen this happens, he knows that the fetish has come, and is 
temporarily inhabiting the object which has been prepared for it. 
The okomfo then addresses the spirit and gives its answers to those 
who have come to consult it. The akomfo are very frequently 
women. A period of training, from two to three years, has to be 
undergone before a man or woman can become a custodian of 
a fetish. The office is not by any means a sinecure, and unpleasant 
results may follow for the priest or priestess should their interpre- 
tation of the fetish's words prove false."; 

In the writer's own district the memory is still fresh of a number 
of priests who were taken to see a certain chief, (the uncle of the 
present Sub-chief Kobina Gyimma), Atakora Kwaku, by name, 
and were asked to predict if he would recover from an illness 
he had been suffering from. Atakora Kwaku was really dead 
already when the priests were led in one by one and asked what 
must be done to cure him. They, in turn, recommended various 
things, till the turn of a priestess of the fetish Nhwafea Tanno came, 
who, on being consulted, said nothing could be done as the man 
was already dead. She thereby acquired great celebrity, while 
her confreres, who did not escape in time, were all promptly put to 

Besides tending the fetish and his local habitation and interpret- 


ing his words, the fetish priest uses and consults lots (see note 
on oka, No. 66). 

Dancing is a marked feature of the cult of all fetishes. The 
terms oaqfo and choaoinfo, already referred to, appear to have a 
slightly different signification. While the gkqmfo not only tends 
the bodily and spiritual welfare of his particular spirit, but also 
dances, and interprets its utterances, the qsofo or qhosomfo would 
seem to confine himself more to tending the fetish than to dances 
or prophecies. Fetish men frequently attain great power and 
influence, and may even come to occupy important stools, e.g. 
that of Aguna is to-day held by a fetish priest, or priestly king. 
(For notes on fetishes see No. 55, Tanno, and No. 73, Krakye 

Ekyere. Note the idiomatic use of the third singular neuter 
pronoun e for the third plural personal wo, 

23. Ohosomaketere hye ohye a, ghye, (621) 

If the fetish lizard (chameleon) is predestined to be burned, it will 
be burned. 

Obosomaketere. Lit. the fetish lizard, the chameleon, why so 
called cannot be ascertained. It is worthy perhaps of note that in 
Diananja folk-lore the tonkwe-tonkwe, or nadzekambe, i. e. chameleon, 
enters into one of their religious myths, and would also seem among 
the Ashantis, judging from its name, to have some similar connexion, 
though why or in what respect the writer has been unable to trace. 

The above saying is one of those to show the unalterable decree 
of destiny. Cf. Nos. 9, 11, 12. 

Hye ghye. The first verb is hye^ to appoint, to fix, {hye da) ; the 
second is the verb hye, to burn. 

24. Obosomfd ha ne nkonim, na gnkd ne nkogu. (624) 

The fetish priest tells of his victories, but not of his defeats. 

(That is, boasts of his successful prophecies, but says nothing about 
the unfulfilled ones.) 

Obosomfd. Better in regard to context ghgmfo, q.v. No. 22. 

Nkonim, . . . nkogu, Deri v. ko, to fight, and nim, success; gu, to 
scatter, disperse. 

26. Btg sikyi o, etg mfucUi o, yenya gkgrtifb kum no. (3286) 

Whether the die falls sikyi or whether it falls mfaate, we are 
going to kill the fetish priest. 



Sikyi, mfuate, A wooden or bone die used for consulting lots. 
Two opposite sides are called dkyi and mfuate^ the other two, korosd^ 
marked with three cross lines | | | | | , and korosa anan, with four 
cross lines | | | | | | . Mfuate is marked with a diagonal line 


sikyi is plain | ' | , The ends have no name and no mark. 

The saying, besides exemplifying the rather precarious nature of 
an gkgmfo's work (see note on gkgmfo, No. 22), is used to denote 
something to which there is little or no alternative. 

26. Otmi, de nepasita fa ofi mu a, ghosomfo aduru dan nsu, (3482) 
When death encamps over against a household, the medicine of 

the fetish priest turns to water. 

Ot(m. Death personified (see note on No. 16, owu). 
Aduru, See note on No. 13, adu^ru, 

^su. Note, nsu, water; osu, rain; asu, a stream or river, or 

27. Okgmfo nni nk&rUdro na wontwa gbosonsoafo ti, (1697) 

When the fetish priest has given a false prophecy, the fetish carrier's 
head is not cut off. 

i^m. Imperative (?) of di; lit. let him lie (1). 

Nkgntdro, Akgm^ and a;t6rOy lying prophecy. 

Ohosonsoafo. The fetish carrier is a separate person from the 
fetish priest. For etymology (according to Ashantis) of sufl&x /o, 
see note on No. 78, kontromft. 

28. Akgmfo aduasafihe gyarefo a, wodi atoro, (1699) 

When thirty fetish priests are looking after a sick man, (some of 
them) are lying. 

AduKtsd, See note on No. 767. 

29. Sika nti, na gkgmfo mene agyan, (2949) 

For the sake of gold dust, the fetish priest swallows an arrow. 

Agyan. Bows and arrows, except as children's toys, are now 
unknown amofig the Ashantis, though from various survivals, as 
this saying for instance, it would seem they were formerly their 
arms. (See also note on No. 522, tafoni.) 

A variation of the above runs, Sika , , . de ne ti pern dan, i. e. 
' knocks his head against a house '. These sayings show that the 
akgmfo also combine with their other duties the art of jugglery and 
self-inflicted punishment. Cf. the Indian fakir. 


30. OU nkyere okomfo ha dkgm. (229) 

No one shows the child of a fetish priest how to dance. 

Kom, The connexion between certain ceremonial dances and 
religion is here clearly seen ; the word for *to prophesy* and *to dance ' 
(only in connexion with a fetish ceremony, the word on an ordi- 
nary occasion being saw\ being synonymous. Cf. the Mananja 
question to the stranger whose totem class one wishes to ascertain, 
Wo bvina nji ? What do you dance ? 

31. Akoho wo nhjoa adv/rU a, anka yede no twa ahoaom sog ? (1661) 
If a fowl possessed life-giving medicine, would it be taken and 
sacrificed over fetishes ? 

Yede=: Wode, 

Twa ahosom sog. Fowls are commonly sacrificed over the images, 
&c., &c., in which the fetishes are, as occasion requires, summoned 
to come and take their temporary abode. 

32. Adurtt a efi kgmfo naam* nhtna ye aduru-jya. (1044) 

All the medicine (charms) that come from the hands of the 
fetish priest are good (real) charms. 

Aduru, Here perhaps rather used as svman (q.v. No. 17). 
Pa, Lit. good, but also used commonly in the sense of real as 
opposed to imitation or worthless. 

33. Ohi mfa ntwako naisi kgmfo, (169) 

No one deceives a fetish priest by dancing. 

Mftty ndd. Note this, at first sight, confusing and peculiar 
idiom. The literal translation would be * One does not by dancing 
not deceive \ a double negative, but this does not in Ashanti make 
a positive, the reason being that whereas in the English idiom 
we have two clauses, a principal and a subordinate, generally in 
copulative co-ordination, or a principal clause and a subordinate 
adverbial phrase, in Ashanti the construction really is two or more 
totally independent principal clauses, the subject of the first in order 
of speaking being understood with each of the clauses following : 

e. g. No one deceives by dancing, English idiom. 

One does not dance, one does not deceive, Ashanti idiom. 

No one tells a man to strike and kill another. . . English idiom. 

In Ashanti the construction would be : One doe& not tell a man, 
one does not strike, one does not kill another. 

This has no doubt been the original full construction and is 

C 2 


quite in accordance with the simple rules for syntax and grammar of 
the language of a primitive race; in time the apparent clumsiness 
of the construction or the wish for abbreviation led to the dropping 
of the conunon subject, except of course with the first verb ; thus 
the negative verbs all came to stand alone in clauses which seem 
subordinate (though really principal or independent short sentences) 
to the opening, or first clause. 

Kgmfo, (See note on No. 22.) Dancing enters largely into the 
training and duties of a fetish priest, and no one not a priest is 
likely to be ' half as expert '. 

34. Oteasefo na gmd omman kgn do gt6, (3215) 

It is the living man who causes the denizen of the spirit world to 
long for the mashed yam. 

Oteasefo, Lit. one who lives down, i. e. on eai-th. 

Na. Emphatic (see note on No. 1). 

Osaman. Osaman, plu. nsamanfo, A spirit or ghost of one 
who has died. Asamah is the spirit world below, not in the sky, 
which is the abode of OnyarJcopoh and the other class of minor 
deities or powers commonly known as 'fetishes' (see note on 
No. 17, gboaonif and No. 1, Onyd^mH). The gsaman is not a soul, 
which is rather gkra,, and this latter is in a man during his life on 
earth, though it may temporarily leave him during sleep, and even 
leave the body of a dying man before death (see note on gkra. 
No. 9, under nkrabea), * The saman or ghost does not appear to 
have an gkra, but this is not quite clear. A saman is in the form 
and shape of the mortal body and has all its senses, or some at any 
rate, and feels hunger and thirst. It generally inhabits a spirit 
world asamafij which is much the same as the world the native now 
lives in (see note on funeral and burial customs. No. 467). 

Nsamanfo, ghosts, are supposed to be of three kinds : 

1. Osamah'pay a good spirit. 

2. Oaaman-twen-tweh, Lit. * a wait-about, wait-about spirit '. 

3. Otgfg. The spirit of a man killed, or who met his death by 

Osamah-jpa. A man may die in a village, and for long after 
the surviving inhabitants may continue all to live without another 
death occurring among them, and affairs generally may seem to 
prosper, either for the community, or for the family of the deceased. 
The spirit is then said to be a good spirit. 


Osaman-tweh'twm, A spirit or ghost that is seen at intervals 
by living persons. 

To explain this class of ghosts it is necessary to recount a 
common belief held by the natives. /They think that when a man 
dies his spirit does not go direct to the world below {aaaman), but 
has first, as it were, to report itself (here opinions seem divided), 
some say to Onyankopgn, others say to a famous * fetish * Brukum, 
which has its earthly habitation somewhere east of the Volta, in 

In either case the spirit is informed if it is to go to the spirit 
world below or to hauut the earth temporarily (as in some cases 
where a man is not supposed to have completed his destiny in this 
world, in which case he (the spirit), is told to return to its old 
haunts till that time is complete), or the spirit is forbidden for ever 
to enter the spirit world and is destined to haunt this earth of 
living men for ever (why, does not seem clear). Such a spirit 
then becomes * a wait-about wait-about B]pint* {gsanMn'twen'twen). 

It does not seem to have much power for harm, and is shy 
generally, and confines itself to frightening people. The saman 
whose stay on earth has been only ordained to last till his destiny 
has been fulfilled eventually disappears to the world where all the 
spirits live. 

Even when a spirit has gone to the lower world, it is not 
necessarily considered to have severed all connexion with the 
world of the living. Hence manes-worship is a distinct branch of 
the religion which is otherwise chiefly concerned in propitiating the 
ahowmy 'fetishes'. 

An Ashanti never drinks without pouring a few drops of the 
wine on the ground for tlie denizens of the spirit world who may 
happen to be about (also some for ' fetishes '). Food is constantly 
placed aside for them. The fetish priests often direct, in cases of 
illness, and such like, that offeirings be made, not to the ' fetish ', 
but to the departed spirit of a relation to whom they, the priests, 
with the assistance of the ' fetish ', have traced the cause of illness 
or misfortune. The departed spirits are regularly summoned from 
the spirit world on certain ceremonial occasions (see No. 388, 
note on akonnua). Not only men, but animals are supposed to 
have certain limited powers after death (see note on No. 13l7 
bgmmofo), ^ 

The word used for ' to haunt ' is sesd or sasa. It must be noted 


there is absolutely no trace of a belief that spirits ever go to live 
in the sky with Onyanko'pqny but as already noted there is an almost 
universal idea that he in some way has power over them to inter- 
dict or permit them to enter the spirit world and also to launch 
a soul (ohra rather than mman) again into the world of men, re- 
incarnation in fact. 

Ghosts are, curiously enough, when visible to the human eye, 
reported generally as being white or dressed in white. The near 
presence of a spirit (ghost) is supposed to be felt by its peculiar 
smell (see No. 38)^ 

Kon do. To long for, lust for, to love. Lit. * to swell ', of the 
neck. This expression, with the more euphemistic pe^ to want, 
are the only words in the language to express the sentiment love. 
In this idiom we probably get near to the primitive conception of 
a word which only refinement and civilization has in time invested 
with a higher conception. 

It forms one of the numerous examples in this language of 
expressions which, having with us a psychological or emotional con- 
nexion, are interpreted by the savage in terms purely physiological, 
A whole host of such expressions exist, and these idioms, among 
other factors, serve to make this language one of great difficulty 
for the European to master. 

36. Woye ' me-nkg-medi * a, luunyd qaaman tMi, (3571) 

If you are an * eat-by-myself * person, you will often see a spirit. 

WunyS, . . . nhui. Note this idiom, i.e. the auxiliary verb nya 
coupled with the verbal noun (formed by the nasal prefix), giving 
the idea of repeated action to the verb, here translated by * often *. 

Osaman. The original text has cimman^ which is an error. 
Osaman is a spirit, aaaman the spirit world. The spirits are often 
supposed to join the living (unseen) when the latter are eating. 
Cooked and hot food is supposed to get cold because of the ghostly 
fingers touching it. 

36. Oaaman-pa hyira ne ha, (2759) 

A good spirit (ghost) looks after its child. 

37. Nsamamjpgw mu aoduru, wo m tjou a, wo ahiisua am. (2760) 
Bent stick in the spirit grove, when your mother is dead that 

is the end of your family. 
Nsamamjoow. Deriv. soman, a spirit, and epgw, a thicket. 



Sodv/ru. A bent or hooked Btiek which is used for cuUivating 
the soil. Deriv. aso^ a hoe, and d/wru^-^dua, stick or tree, shaped 


Wo m vm a. Lit. when your mother dies, in this case when 
the parent tree, on which the hooked stick grows, is cut or falls 

^ The saying is allegorical and means that when a child loses its 
n)t)ther it has lost the head of its family. Descent is traced through 
the mother, and stools, property, &c., pass, not to the son, but to 
brothers (see note on abusua below). 

i\^. Mother. The following are the names of various relations, 
in each case all those persons to whom a particular name applies 
being also given. 



A. End{p\u.mdnom), 
Entf mo, and awo. 

B. Agya, or ose. 




C. Onua, deriv. om 
wa, om ha (lit. 
mother's child). 

D. Agya ha (lit. 
father's child). 

E. Kunu {okunu). 

Sister or 

or half-sister. 


All persons to whom the name 
may be applied. 

(1) Own mother. (2) Mother's 
sister. (3) Own father's various 
other wives. Also sometimes 
used as term of respect even 
when no relationship exists. 
(See I.) 

(1) Own father. (2) Father's 
brother. (3) Term of respect 
not necessarily implying rela- 
tionship. (See Q.) 

(1) Own sister or brother {hy 
same mother only). (2) Own 
mother's sister's child. (3) Any 
one of the same ahimia family 
name as your own, see note 
below on ahimia, (See I in 

(1) The child of your own 
father by a mother not your 
own. (2) Father's brother's 
child. (See N in table.) 

(1) A woman's own husband. 
(2) Sister's husband. (3) Hus- 
band's brother. (4) Half-sister's 
husband. (See U in table.) 



Classipicatort System amono the Ashanti {continued) 


F. Oj/ere (plu. -worn). 

G. Agya (lit. father). 

H. Wofa. 

I. Ena. 

J. Wgfasewa, 

K. Wofase. 

L. 06a (lit. child, son, 
or daughter). 

M. Onua, 

N. Agya ne nua ha, 

O. Nana {Nand-hari- 
ma, Nana-bd), 

P. Oba nana, 

Q. Nanankdnso (lit. 
* Grandparent not 
touch (his) ear '). 

R. Aae, 

S. 0«eti7. 

T. JA:cmto. 

U. Ohinu (lit. hus- 

V. Oyere {nua) (lit. 

W. iiA:«2m9na. 


Uncle (pa- 

Uncle (ma- 

Aunt (ma- 
Aunt (pa- 












All persons to whom the name 
may be applied. 

(1) A man's own wife or wives. 
(2) Brother's wife. (3) Wife's 
sister. (4) Half-brother's wife. 
(See V in table.) 

Father's brother. (See B in 

Mother's brother, who may 
succeed to stool, property, &c. 

Own mother's sister. (See A 
and M.) 
Father's sister. 

Sister's child (daughter). Note 
the feminine suffix vxi. 

Sister's child (son). 

Own child, brother's child 
(daughter or son). 

Mother's (own) sister's child. 
(See C and I.) 

Father's brother's child. (See 
D in table.) 

Maternal and paternal grnnd- 

Children of son or daughter. 

Maternal and paternal great- 

(1) Wife's father. (2) Hus- 
band's father. 

(1) Wife's mother. (2) Hus- 
band's mother. 

Wife's brother. 

Husband's brother. (See E 
in table.) 

Wife's sister. (See F.) 
Husband's sister. 


Ahusua, The following legend is common among the Ashantis 
toftccount for the derivation of this word. 

jThey derive it from Ahu (a proper name), and «wa, to imitate, 
tne reason being given as follows. * There lived in former times a 
king of Adanse who had a "linguist" named Abu. This Abu 
incurred the king's anger and was heavily fined. Now, at that 
time children used to inherit from their father. Abu asked his 
children to assist him to pay the fine imposed by the king, but 
they refused and all went o£P to their mother* 8 relatives. But Abu's 
sister's children rendered him assistance to pay o£P his debts, and 
Abu, therefore, when he died left all his belongings to them. Other 
people then copied him and willed their property to the sister's 
children {Abu-ma, lit. copying Abu).' (The above is a literal 
translation of the account given by a native. Xj 

This is an excellent example of an aetiological myth. The 
Ashantis, who now notice that other nations trace descent through 
the father, have invented this myth to explain the fact that with 
them descent is traced through the mother, which now strikes 
them as curious. 

It is amusing to notice that the inventor of this myth has not 
been able to entirely adapt his mental attitude even to the 
imaginary setting of his tale, for he quite naturally pictures the 
children, under the supposed former father right , running off to the 
mother's relatives. (As a matter of fact no case is known of a 
change from patrilineal to matrilineal descent.) 

The law of succession (to stools and property and clan name) 
among this people is as follows : 

The direct heir is (1) the eldest brother by the same mother. 
(2) Failing such (and he may be passed over for various reasons — 
incompetency, bodily blemish, &c.), the next in the direct line of 
succession is the eldest son of the eldest sister, (3) the grandson 
through the female line, (4) another branch of the same family or 
clan {abti8ua)f (5) a slave. 

One commonly hears Europeans who have a smattering of native 
customary law lay it down as a hard and fast rule that the nephew, 
that is class (2) as above, always succeeds. 

This, however, is not the case. There is even a well-known 
proverb to that effect — Niwamma nsae a, wofase nni ade^ * When 
(one's) mother's children are not finished, (one's) nephew does not 


Many of these proverbs illustrate in a remarkable manner the 
force and strength and unity of relationship on and through the 
female side, and the almost total disregard or recognition of any 
kinship tie on the father's sid^. See proverbs Nos. 37, 483, 486, 
487, 488, 491, 492. 

AhusHa means a family or clan name, it is always inherited 
through the mother. Each clan is exogamous. The classificatory 
system here given, which is incomplete (the writer hopes to go fully 
into this subject in a future work), might seem to point to a past 
in which a group of brothers married a group of sisters. The 
most important of these clans or families are as follows : 








Some of these names are those of plants or animals. Oyoko 
would seem to mean red earth. Each and all may necessitate the 
observance of certain taboos (though perhaps another factor deter- 
mines this). . An example of only one will be given here. A man 
of the Nyado ntoh will not kill a leopard. Should he accidentally 
trap and kill one it will be carried to his village, laid on a mat, 
bathed by the women folk smeared with white clay, in fact all the 
funeral rites usually observed on the death of a human being are 
held over it. They also beg its pardon. It is then carried in a 
hammock (apa) and buried. 

The python is sometimes treated in a similar way, as also the 
crocodile. Even when a man whose nton, say, does not prevent 
his killing a leopard, does bo, and another man whose ntoh makes 
the leopard sacred happens to be near, the latter person will beg 
permission to take away the body and treat it as described. 

The word nton has been mentioned. It does not seem that the 
animal specially regarded has strictly a connexion with a man's 
ahtisuaj i.e. the clan name he inherits from his mother, but that 
this special regard for an animal depends on a person's nton which 
is also hereditary but traced through the male line, and is not 
exogamous, that is, two persons of the same ntoh may marry, always 
provided the ahusua is not the same. The ntoh rather than the 


abusua Beems to determine the taboo. Each nton class has its own 
special form of greeting (in answering a salutation). 

Each taboos certain things, each necessitates a certain day for 
'soul washing', and certain forms of sacrifice to accompany that 
ceremony. (The writer hopes to go into the whole question of 
totemism among these people in a future work.) 

38. Osamane aJwofivam ne rmnHm. (2762) 

The smell of a ghost is the smell of the ' nuwdm ' shrub. 

Osamane, As gsaman (q.v. No. 35), but in Akyem dialect. 
Nwnimh, A shrub with aromatic scented leaves. 

39. Osamah tee ne nsa kyia wo a, wojpono wo de mu, (2763) 

When a ghost puts forth its hand to greet you, you draw your's back. 

Wopono, PonOy lit. to bend. Hand shaking as a salutation 
appears to have been a native custom before the advent of Euro- 
peans. When shaking hands with a number of assembled persons 
the person will always commence with the one standing on his 
right and pass on from right to left. 

40. Omman htiben teasefo ansa-na wadidi, (2764) 

A ghost does not wait for the living to begin to eat before it begins 
to partake. 

Teasefo, See note on No. 34. 

41. Asaman nni hirihi a, ewg nhyehye-wo-^kyi, (2765) 

If the spirit world possesses nothing else, it has at least the power 
of its name. 

Asaman. The underworld of ghost people (see note on gsaman, 
No. 35). 

Nhyehye-wo-dkyi. This saying is difficult to render literally. 
ffyehye-wo-dkyi, boast of your back, i.e. of whom or what is behind 
you, as for instance where a man would claim to be the subject of 
some powerful chief to prevent a lesser chief, into whose hands he 
had fallen, from killing him. So here, where applied to the spirit 
world, about which people do not know much, but which is held 
in dread, as spirits can come and haunt living men and cause them 
sickness and even death. So this saying is quoted of a person who 
makes vague allusions as to what he will do and who will avenge 
him if he is interfered with. 


42. Asaman, toofikg nsan mma, (2767) 

The spirit world is not a place one can visit and return from again 
(as a living man). 

Wanko, naan mma. For the negative see note on No. 33, m/a, 
nsisi. Mma, neg. of ha, 

48. Amman, wgmmdnd. (2768) 

Things cannot be sent to the spirit world (?). (Meaning obscure.) 

44. Asam^ntawa ae enim jyae a, ete se atawa pa, (2769) 

When the ' spirit ' tavja tree declares it knows how to pop, at best 
it can hope to do so (only) like the real tawa tree (if as well 
even as that). 

Aaamantawa, The tawa, or atd, is a tree with large bean-like 
pods which when ripe burst with a bang. Three varieties are known 
as tawa'2xi, the 'real' tawa, see note on No. 483, papdjpa tawa, 
an inferior kind, and samianlawa, a species of the same tree 
inferior to that again, not fit for human consumption (the seeds of 
the tawa-jxi are eaten), but the inferior species are good enough for 
the denizens of the spirit world. The same idea is seen in the word 
aam^an-sika, spirit's money, which is applied to metal filings (cf. 
Chinese imitation paper money). 

46. Onipa wu (t^o) samamjygw mu a, wqmfd no mma ofie bio, (2416) 
When a man dies in the spirit grove (cemetery), he is not brought 
back to the home again. 

Wg, This verb often takes the place of the preposition * in ' or ' at ' 
in English (cf. md, see note on No. 14). 

Wgmfdy mma. Translate by the passive. For note on the 
negative see No. 33, mfa, nsisi, 

46. Wunni saman aduan a, womfa wo naa nio mu, (914) 

If you are not going to partake of the spirits' food, do not put your 
hand in it. 

Sam^n aduan. Food set aside for the spirits. 

47. Witbu w6 sumdn a^swmammd a, ehita wo, (655) 

If you call your amulet a trifling thing, it will seize hold of you 
(kill you). 

Swmdn, See note on No. 35, gsaman, 

Asumammd, Diminutive of simian (see No. 35, gsaman). 


>48. Ojyanyin ano sen suman, (2610) 

The advice (lit. mouth) of a man of ripe experience is more potent 
than (your) little guardian deity. 

Opanyih, See note on panyifiy No. 1. 

49. Sumah kajirma nye hirihi a, na eye amtade, (3114) 

If the little kqfirma charm is good for nothing else^ it is at any 
rate an adornment. 

Amtade, Mia, to dress, adorn, and ade, thing. 

50. Enni habiara a wotrd iJbe yisa hinam suman so a, enye nnam, 

There is no special place where one should sit and chew guinea 
pepper and hlow it out over one's tutelary deity, to make 
it a sharp (clever) little amulet. 

Hinam. To hlow out in a spi*ay from the mouth, a common form 
of propitiation. (This is also done in the case of a * soul washing ', 
see No. 147.) 

The writer has noticed a similar custom among the Mahanjas of 
Central Africa, who when propitiating the spirits of their dead also 
squirt water out of the mouth in this way. 

Yisa, nnam. An example of sympathetic magic — * like causes 
like' — the sharp biting pepper to cause the sumun to be sharp. 

51. Obi mfa nea wavM sumah nka se, * Ma me nkwa ne akwaMsan \ 

No one takes the amulet of one who has died (and whom therefore 
it has failed) and addresses it, saying, *Give me life and health '. 

52. Wo hra nye a, na vmnyd asafo nsani amanne, (1760) 

If your soul is not a lucky one, you fall into the hands of a 
* company '. 

Asafo, A union or company of men banded together under 
a leader, chosen from among their number by popular vote, to 
compel the recognition of a real or imaginary grievance or to 
further some plan, good or perhaps bad, upon which all are of one 
mind ; or perhaps again, merely for the purpose of joining together 
to work in turns for each other, say at cultivating or clearing 
a plantation. 

These companies or confederations adopt a leader, as already 


stated, and assnme an emblem or flag, and the confederation is 
given a name, generally one explaining the raison cf^e for the 
amalgamation. The following are a few examples of * company ' 

IKyiriamim, * We hate greediness '. 
Apesemaka, * We wish to present our grievance '. 
Ajpagya, ' Strike a light ' (with flint and steel). 
Amfoy of course is also a war company (see No. 306, note on 

The saying quoted above means, that with an individual, whom 
one may run foul of, one may have a chance, but when a whole 
community are against you and determined one and all on your 
destruction, there is little chance for you. 
Kra, See note on No. 9, nkrabea. 
Amanne=:Oman'ade, Oman, see note on No. 474. 

68. Nkrahea nhtnd ns^, (1762) 
All destinies are not alike. 

Nkrabea, See note on No. 9, nkrabea. 

54. Wode wo kra haw, na woantua no a, gfa wo ahufaw, (776) 

If you are in debt to your soul, and have not paid it, (your soul) 
gets angry with you. 

Wode . . . haw. Lit. owe a debt to, i. a (in present context) 
fail to fulfil some vow you have made, e. g. a promise to sacrifice 
a fowl. Kaw, (Ashanti, kci) deriv. perhaps ha, to remain. Note 
the following, de haw, to hold or have a debt; dan haw, to sue 
for recovery of a debt ; tua haw, to pay a debt. 

Woantua, Perfect tense. 

Ahufuw. Lit. swelling of the chest, cf. hon do, q.v. No. 34. 

65. Ohi nkwali Tanno nho aka ase, (222) 

No one consults the lots without calling on (his) fetish (lit. Tanng), 

Tanno, Perhaps the most famous fetish in Ashanti and the 
Gold Coast. Called after the river Tanno in which it has its abode. 
The fetishes Tanng and Bea (also a river), are supposed by some 
of the natives to be the children of the Supreme Being Ony^m6 
(q.v. No. 1), Tanno being the first in importance. The following 
is a popular myth with regard to them. When the Supreme 
Being was premeditating as to where he should set down the 
abodes of his children on earth, the goat heard of it and being 


a great friend of Bea ran and told him that when his father sent 
for Tanno and him, he should rise up and go very quickly so that 
he should arrive there before his brother. So when the children 
were called before their father, Bea came first and his father, as 
a reward, set his abode down in the coolness and shade of the 
forest country, whereas Tanno was given a home in the more open 
grass lands. In consequence, to this day the followers of Tanno, 
* turn their back on ', or * hate ', i. e. taboo the flesh of the goat. 

There are many minor fetishes all owing their power to Tanno 
whose name is added to their own, e. g. Tanno Tao, Tanno Akwasi, 
Tanno Konkroma, The water of the Tanno is brought from long 
distances to found a temple or shrine for the spirit in villages far 
from the river. The fish in the Tanno are never eaten, nor its 
water drunk, and the fish are fed on various ceremonial occasions. 

The Tanno fetish is so famous, that its name is sometimes used 
almost as a generic term for all fetishes, as in the saying here 

Nhjoatiy nko. For note on the negative see No. 33, m/a, 

Aha, Lots, of various kinds, stnngs with different articles 
attached to the ends, akamatwe (see No. 412), and dice (see note 
on No. 25, sikyi), a pot of water with models of hoes, axes, and 
sometimes a stone celt, in it. These are fished out with a wooden 
spoon and the omens read from what turns up. This last is called 
nsuoyd. The consulting of lots is part of the duty of the fetish 
priest, qkgmfOy (q. v. No. 22), but there is another class of medicine 
men, dunsinfoy lit. ' root folk ', i.e. persons who dig for roots for 
medicines, who also combine with this occupation that of diviner or 
oracle man. 

56. Saaabonsdm kg ayi a, gsoe ohayifofi, (2782) 

When a sasabonsdm (devil) goes to attend a funeral, he lodges at 
a witch's house. 

Sasabonsdm, Deriv. honsam, a devil, or evil spirit {ifwt the 
disembodied soul of any particular person, just as the fetish is not 
a human spirit). 

Its power is purely for evil and witchcraft. The ohayifo is perhaps 
its servant, as the tenns are sometimes synonymous. Sasd or sesd 
is the word used for a person being possessed of a spirit or devil 
^oye no sdsd). 


The aaasabonsam is a moDster of human shape, living far in the 
depths of the forest, and only occasionally met by hunters. 

It sits on tree-tops and its legs dangle down to the ground and 
have hooks for feet which pick up any one who comes within reach. 
It has iron teeth. There are female, male^ and little aambonsam, 
A large fungus growth very like a big cabbage in appearance often 
found growing on trees is called aasabonsam kj/ew?^ L e. devil's 

At/t. Burial, funeral. Deri v. yi, to take away, to remove. (For 
custom of burying slaves, wives, &c., with a dead master, see 
note on No. 467.) The grave is a deep trench from 6 to 8 feet 
deep in one side of which a cavity is again dug, forming as it were 
a room, with three walls. (Cf. the Chinyanja mudzi, * village ' or 
last home.) The body is placed in this case, which is then fenced 
or screened off. Chiefs and men of importance are buried in the 
house in which they die, which then becomes their tomb. , 

Ohayifo. Deriv. hayi^ sorcery (synonymous term ayen), a wizard, 
or more generally witch. A kind of human vampire whose chief 
delight is to suck the blood of children whereby the latter pine 
and die. 

Men and women possessed of this black magic are credited with 
volitant powers, being able to quit their bodies and travel great 
distances in the night. Besides sucking the blood of victims, they 
are supposed to be able to exti'act the sap and juices of crops. (Cases 
of coco blight are ascribed to the work of the gbayifo,) Tliese 
witches are supposed to be very common and a man never knows 
but that his friend or even his wife may be one. When prowling 
at night they are supposed to emit a phosphorescent light from the 
armpits and anus. An gbayifo in everyday life is supposed to 
be known by having sharp shifty eyes, that are never at rest, also 
by showing an undue interest in food, and always talking about 
it, especially meat, and hanging about when cooking is going on, 
all of which habits are therefore purposely avoided. A man will 
seldom deny another, even a stranger, a morsel of what he may be 
eating, or a hunter a little bit of raw meat to any one asking it, 
hoping thereby to avoid the displeasure of one who, for all he can 
tell, is a witch or wizard. . (See No. 76.) 

The ghayifo can also enter into animals, &c., e.g. buffalo, elephant, 
snakes, and cause them to kill people. The ghayifo is discovered 
by a process analogous to the ' smelling out ' of witches among the 



Zulu, i. e. the * carrying of a corpse ', see note on No. 77. Witches 
and wizards are guarded against by a mman (q.v. No. 17, qhosom), 
and a little raw meat or other food is frequently placed at the 
entrance to a village for them to partake of. This ofPering also 
frequently takes the form of a bunch of palm nuts pinned down 
to the ground with a stick. 

57. Sasabonsdm ti aae, woae oye qhayifo, na menne «g osi odum attftna 
odum nso sow mmoatia, (2783) 
When a sasabonsdm devil is down on the ground he is called a 
wizard, how much more when he is perched on top of an odvm 
tree, and the odum tree is also bearing a crop of tailless 
monkeys as its fruit. 

Menne, Lit. I do not mention ; neg. of de, 

Odvm. The odum tree {CMorophora exeelsa). 
1 The odum tree is universally considered among the Ashantis as 
a potential abode of a fetish and one may constantly see offerings 
placed at their base. An gbayifo, too, may alight on them, and 
also, as mentioned here, the sasabonsam. 

The tree, like all earthly abodes of spirits, is nothing in itself* 
but only by virtue of its being the body in which the fetish or 
spirit may dwell. An odum tree that may have been universally 
revered, on falling down, then becomes merely a tree, for the 
fetish which invested it with awe will have gone to seek a new 
abode. Odum trees are never cut down for firewood, nor used 
for making stools. 

Sawyers, who cut them down for Europeans, for timber, are 
supposed sooner or later to go mad or die. 

The following legend about the odum anH the supposed etymology 
of the word dunsin, a stump, is curious and interesting. (Cf. sup- 
posed origin of suffix /o, see No. 78, kontromft). Wlien all the 
trees were given names the odu/m tree asked all the others to add 
its name to theirs, but this they would not agree to. Later 
on, however, as the trees found themselves cut down for firewood, 
building, &c., &c., while the odum still stood untouched and even 
reverenced, it seems that they, when too late, took its name, i.e. 
dunsih = odum, the odimi tree, and otw, a piece or fragment. 

It is interesting to note that rubber trees were for long 
regarded as the abode of little children fetishes because 'they 
wept when cut '. 

1698 i> 


Big prices for rubber, bowever, soon caused this idea to be set 
aside, though the priests first tried to prevent tapping. 

Mmoatia. A half-mythical man monkey, supposed to be ex- 
ceeding swift and used by devils and wizai*ds as messengers. 

58. Se odum osi ho a, ose gye Otanno^ na gbansam ahesi so , , . . ! 

When an odttm tree stands there, it declares it is Tanng, but when 
a devil comes and perches on it .... ! 

Odwm,, See note above, No. 57. 
Otanno. See note on No. 55, Tanng, 
Obonsam, See note on No. 56, saaabonsdm, 

69* Otou a ahum wo na n^ too agya wo ho a, wunnye din se, * Aha me 
nko\ (3477) 
When Death which has killed your mother and your father is there 
(with you again), you do not say to him, ^ I alone remain '. 

Owu. See note on No. 16, oum. Death, personified, is blind 
but can hear. When he hears ' you alone remain', he will immedi- 
ately want to complete his work of destruction. 

Na, agya. For Ashanti classificatory system, see note on nt, 
No. 37. 

Wunnye din, Wwnnye, neg. of gye, lit. you do not receive the 
name of. . . 

60. Owu bekum wo se newo nt a, nsu se, * Me se n^ me nt awu \ na su 

«c, * Me n^ m*agya n^ me nd 6cA» '. (3479) 

If Death has come and killed your father and your mother, do not 

weep, saying, * My father and my mother are dead ', but weep 

and say, * I and my father and my mother will go (with you) *. 

61. Owu bekum wo na wofre no agya a, obekum wo, tmfre no ena a, 

obekrnn wo, (3480) 
If Death comes to kill you and yon supplicate it, calling it * Father ', 
it will kill you, and if you supplicate it, calling it ' Mother ', it 
will kill you. 

62 . Oum adare nngw fdkd, (3481) 

Death's sickle does not reap one place alone. 

63. Otru nhtnd ye oum. (3483) 

All the dififerent forms Death takes are just the one Death. 


64. Owu na wannya hahi arUcq a, na gkg asaman, (3484) 

When Death has no particular place to go to, then it goes off to 
the world of spirits. 

Aaaman. See note on No. 35, qsaman, 

65. Ovm n9 wo ase hye wo adwuma-ye a, owu de na woko kan. (2485) 
If both your father-in-law and Death appoint a day for you to do 

some work, it is Death's you will go about first. 

66. Ovm to wo a, wunse no «g, * Fwe aherewa I ' (3486) 

When Death overtakes you, you do not say to it, ' Look, there is an 
* old woman (take her) ! ' 

Se. This word has lost its association with its original root ae, to 
say, and become exactly the equivalent of the English * that'. Were 
it treated as a verb it would have to be negative, see note on 
No. 33, mfdy nsisi, 

Aherewa, An old woman, not a disrespectful term, sometimes 
used for mother. 

67. Owu wg okyekyZfo adaka ano safZ, (3487) 
Death has the key to open the miser s chest. 

68. Ovm nye j^a na woadi mu ahyemfiri, (3493) 

Death is not a sleepiug-room that can be entered and come out of 


Ahyemfiri. Deriv. hyen^ to enter, and^rt, to come out. 

69. * Mirewu kyena, mirewu ne\ na yede ye ayie ? (3494) 

* I am going to die to-morrow, I am going to die to-day,' do they 
begin the funeral custom (because of such words) ? 

70. Wurewu a, wunse ae, * Mirewu o ! mirewu o !* (3495) 

When you are (really) dying, you do not say, *0h, I am dying ! Oh, I 
am dying ' I 

71. OM nim nea owu wg a, anka onsi hg ara da, (263) 

If one could know where Death resided, one would never stop 

72. Nea wahintiw awu nOy wontutu 'mirika nkg n*ayi ase, (2170) 
When a man has met his death through having stumbled (fallen), 

one does not run to attend the funeral of such an one. 

Awu, Subjunctive mood. 



WontutUy nkg. For negative, see note on No. 33, mfa, nsisi. 
Ayi. See note on No. 56, ayu 

73. Okom nye Krakye Dente nye. 

Hunger is not good (good, in sense of, * to be lightly thought of '), 
neither is Krakye Bente, 

Krdkyt Dente. 1 Probably after Tanno (see No. 65, Tanng), 
the most famous fetish on the Gold Coast. The present abode of 
its chief fetish priest is a cave, situated about thirty feet high on 
a rocky hill-side at Kete Krakye on the Volta river, in what was 
once German Togoland. ' 

The spot, which the writer once visited, is situated in a grove 
with a broad path leading to it. At the entrance to the grove 
stands the symbol of this fetish, a tall, conical mound about seven 
feet high with the apex hollowed in the foim of a bowl to receive 
the sacrifices made to it. The path and open space at the foot of 
ihe face of the cliff, where the cave is situated, are kept clean 
and swept; the grove itself contains a large circular clearing. 
Climbing up the face of the cliff, one comes to the mouth of the 
cave, which has been roughly built up, rags hang in front of this 
opening. The entrance is higher up through a narrow passage 
which leads into the cave, which again by another passage leads 
into a second chamber which opens on to the grove by the walled 
up front mentioned. One has to wait quite a considerable time 
before entering the inner cave to allow thousands of bats to fly out. 
The floor of the cave where one enters is ankle deep in a fine powder 
caused by their droppings. Piled high against one side of the cave 
are hundreds of gin bottles, offerings to the qhomfo^ who sits in 
the cave and gives utterance to those who come to consult the fetish, 
addressing them in the grovebelow, from behind the partially 
built up face of the rock. (The symbol of Dente, the conical 
mound, may be seen in almost every village in Ashanti, and there 
would seem some uniformity in this particular design, even among 
other fetishes having no connexion with Dente, for their abode is 
often a piled up mass of clay, feathers, blood, somewhat in the form 
of a cone. (Cf. the Delphic oracle.) The following is a tradition 
of the supposed origin of the name Dente. The original name of 
this fetish was Konkom, and its chief priest resided some hundreds 
of years ago at Date (in Akuapem). 

The fetish priest lived in a cave there. His sanctuary was 


violated by a man, who, when the priest was stretching forth 
a hand to receive an offering, dragged him out, disclosing a man 
covered with sores. After this the priest left Date and went, first 
to Agogo, and thence to Kratchi (Krakye), and there took up his 
abode in the cave described. Not knowing the Krakye language, 
he could not make himself understood, and to inquiries as to his 
name, &c., could only reply he came from * Date ', which in the 
local language is Dente. For fuller account of * fetish * worship, 
see note on No. 17, ghoaom, 

74. Ohayifo ha wu a, eye no yav). (59) 

When a witch's child dies, it makes her sad. 

Ohayifo, See note on No. 56, obayifo, 

^5. Ohayifo grekg e ! chayifo grekg e / na wonye ohayifo a, wurdiba wo 
ani, (60) 
A witch is passing ! a witch is passing ! (feome one cries), but if you 
are not a witch you do not turn your eyes to look. 

76. Ohayifo hum wddi-wamimd-m^j na ohkdm wdma-me-na-esUa, (61) 
The sorcerer kills (by magic) the one who eats and gives him 

nothing, but he does not kill him who eats and gives him 
(even) a little piece. 

See note on ohayifo, No. 56. 

77. Efunu a ebesi nnim sudeijo. (1163) 

The corpse which is coming to knock against (some one) cares 
nothing for cries of sorrow. 

' The custom of * carrying the corpse * {afunsoa) when the cause 
©r death is supposed to be witchcraft is briefly as follows. An 
open stretcher is made of palm branches, and on this the corpse is 
laid, being surrounded by damdram leaves (the vivid crimson leaf 
one sees so frequently in Ashanti and along the line from Seccondee 
to Coomassie) and errie (mint ?) and onunn/m leaves (q. v. No. 38). 
The stretcher is then placed on the heads of two men, who carry it out 
into the street. The whole people assemble. The chief, or head 
man of the village, advances cutlass in haiid, and addresses the 
corpse, saying, * If I were the one who killed you by magic, advance 
on me and knock {si) me*. And so on each in turn comes up till 
the guilty one's turn comes, when the corpse will urge the carriers 
forward to butt against him with the litter. A person so accused 
can appeal for a change of carriers. 


Wild Animals, &c, : Thk Monkey, Elephant, Lion, Leopard, 
Antelope, Cbocodile, Cbab, Otteb, Pobcupine, Tobtoisb, 

LizABD, Snail, Snake. 

78. Kontromft se, * Oberan vru ne k6ko \ (1717) 

The monkey says, ' The brave man dies because of his brave heart *. 

Kontromft, Other names for various species of monkeys are 
odiuihyen (*the white tail*), aduy (the dog-faced baboon), efg^ 
• (Ashanti, efog, the black colobus monkey). 

There are many myths and stories about monkeys, and one at 
least is worthy of notice, proving as it does that the savages possess 
even their rude philologists, and showing that they have that innate 
curiosity which compels them to ask and find a reason for many 
things (which inquiring state of mind some would deny to them 
altogether), however childish and unsatisfying to our minds the 
answers they are contented to accept may be. They eay that when 
Onyankd2)gn created and named all things. He went about accom- 
panied by the efo (colobus monkey), and when he had done this 
work, the efo requested that his services and assistance might be 
rewarded in some suitable manner, and suggested having his name 
perpetuated for all time by having it suffixed to the names of all 
peoples, nations, and occupations. To this the Creator agreed. 
Hence we have the suffix /o=f/o in all such words, e. g. Asante/o; 
Mampon-fo; adtbuma-fo, &c., &c. ! The singular suffix, corres- 
ponding to fo (which is plural) is nt, and this is, the natives state 
(correctly no doubt), derived from onipay a man. 

Monkeys are supposed to have got their tails in the following 

The Creator {Odomankoma, see No. 1) made men, monkeys, 
and tails, &c., &c. (the tails apart from monkeys). The monkeys, 
after the habit of their kind, would pick up the various things lying 
about that Odomankoma had made, among other things they kept 
playing with were the tails. One monkey, picking one up, stuck 
it on behind him, when all the rest copied him. When they tried 
to take them o£P again, they found they had grown on, and they 
were compelled to wear them for ever after. 




79. Kmdromfx se, ' Afei ne arnpa \ (1718) 

The monkey says, * Well now I shall really speak the truth *. 

80. Kontromfi se, ' Me suman ne m aniwa \ (1 72 1) 

The monkey says, * My talisman (against surprise and enemies) is 
my little eyes '. 

Sunum, See note on No. 1 7, gbosom. 

Ne. See note on No. 1, ne. 

Aniwa. Wa is the diminutive suffix (sometimes also feminine), 
and as ant is sometimes used for eyes, can be here translated by 
'little eyes'. Ani perhaps, however, more literally means face, 
front, or surface of a thing. Anim, lit. in the front, is the word 
used for face. Nsu ani, the face, or surface of the water. 

81.. Kontromfi se, ohta ayi dkyZafo adi, (1719) 

The monkey says that there is nothing like poverty for taking the 
conceit out of a man. 

Ayi . . . adi. Adi=adiwo, an open space. 
Aky^fo. For suffix^, see note on No. 78. 

82. Kontromfi se, * Wohye m'afonom^ a, na meyi as&nvpa makd maJcyere 

wo\ (1720) 
The monkey says, * If you fill up my cheeks (with food), then I shall 
reveal the truth and tell you'. 

MaJcd^ makyere. Subjunctive mood. 

83. Yenim se kont/romfi kon tog hg,na yede hdmd to n'asenmu. (2343) 
We know the monkey has a neck, but we nevertheless take a string 

and attach it to its waist. 

Hdmd. Lit. a creeper, hence used for rope or string. 

N^asenrmi. Asen, the waist. Note the following words, all 
spelt alike (save for the prefix vowel which is generally omitted) 
and distinguished from each other only by accent or change in 
vowel sound : 

1. {E)sen, a court herald {e as in fed). 

2. {ff)i^, a pot [e broad). 

3. {p)s^, from s^, to surpass (2 nasal). 

4. {A)seh, the waist {e between i and c). 

It is this variety of vowel sounds which (in words otherwise spelt 
the same) alters the entire meaning, that makes the Twi language 
one of exceptional difficulty for the European to master. 


84, Obi iihye hmtromfi mmd onni son, (195) 

No one compels a monkey to eat the tamarind (?) fruit. (The osqh, 
tamarind (?), is the favourite food of monkeys). 

Nhye . , . mma, onni. Note the negatives running throughout ; 
see note on No. 33, mfa, nsisi. 

86. OdtLohy&h se, * Nea ewg vtinfomxm! nye me dea, nea akg me yam* na 
eyemedea\ (1026) 
The white-tailed one (the black colobus monkey) says, * What is in 
my cheek is not mine, but what has gone into my belly that 
is my very own '. 

OdAiafiym, Dua, a tail (lit. stick), and hyeh, bright or white. 

Me dea. Dea, as, me de. This suffix de is used to form the 
possessive pronouns. This de is probably the word ade, a thing, 
and the construction is really the possessive adjective qualifying 
the noun ade; me de, mine (lit. my thing). Ade, thing, is again 
a noun formed from the root de, to hold, to possess; ade, something 
held, a possession, a thing. The writer knows no language in 
which it is possible to get down to roots and root meanings in 
words more often than in Ashanti or T^i. There are few words 
of more than two syllables which cannot be broken up into their 
component parts, and the student of the language who will devote 
attention to the mastery of roots and basic stems will find his 
future studies much simplified, and render the acquisition of a voca- 
bulary a much more pleasant task than had he merely endeavoured 
to learn dissyllabic and polysyllabic words without knowing the 
roots from which they are built up. 

86. Kontromft akwakord na gware kontromft aherewa. (1715) 

It is Mr. Old-man-monkey who marries Mrs. Old-woman-monkey. 

87. Kontromft ky%a senea akyeafo kyea^ nso ne to kg, (1716) 

The monkey struts about just as a conceited person does, but its 
bottom is red nevertheless. 

iV^e to kg. There is a kind of monkey which the natives declare 
speaks these words, * Wo to kg, wo to kg* (lit. You red bottom, you 
red bottom '), and certainly the sound this monkey makes seems, once 
one has heard the interpretation given, to be exactly these words. 
The black colobus monkey with the white tail ' says *, * WaJm, 
waJm ? ' (Have you seen, have you seen ?). The sounds made by 
many birds and animals are put in words by the natives, and once one 


has heard these sounds interpreted into words, it is easy to imagine 
that the sound produced represents the exact words ascribed. 
The native does not think it so very extraordinary, and is quite 
ready to ascribe a limited knowledge of his language to birds and 
beasts while recognizing that he cannot of course always understand 
what they say. 

88. Malm kont/romfia ne yere awu na wasiw atimum^ na wo wansan de^ 

efa wo ho dm ? (1445) 
I have seen a monkey whose wife has died and he has let his hair 
grow long in consequence, but as far as you are concerned, 
Bush-buck, how does it concern you 1 

It is the bush-buck (male), with its long horns like plaited hair, 
to which the allusion is made. The saying is quoted in the sense 
that one man's troubles are no concern of any but his own family. 

Yere, Wife (see also note on m, No. 37, table of terms of 
relationship or classificatory system F). The derivation is possibly 
from the same root that is seen in yere, to be stretched out on, 
spread out, strained upon. 

89. Esono ahyi nni aboa, (3029) Cf. No. 90, following. 

After the elephant there is no other animal (to compare with it in 
size and strength). 

EaoTio, Lit. * the big one ', deriv. so, big, and no, the pronoun, 
he ; e the noun prefix. Cf. suaono, the hippo, lit. ' the big one of 
the water '. 

Ahyi. The back of anything, hence behind, used of place and of 
time. The same root is probably found in kyi, to dislike, hate, of 
a person or thing. In the latter sense it is the word used for taboo, 
the idea in both these words probably being, to turn the back on, 
(See also note on No. 132, wokyL) 

Nni, Neg. of wo, to be. 

Ahoa. An animal, anything having life, a creature ; used of and 
applied to animals, birds, fishes, insects, reptiles, and even man, 
but in this last case generally, though not always, in an abusive 
sense, * You beast '. 

The word is often used in apposition with the name of the animal, 
insect, &c., specified, e.g. see Proverbs Nos. 172, 175. If you 
want to insult a man very much, you call him, * onipa ahoa ', ' a man 


90. Eaono akyi aboa ne bdmmofo ! (3028) 

After the elephant is a (still greater) animal, the hunter ! 
Bdmmgf5. See note on bdmmofo, No. 131. 

01- Esono kuntah na adowa di jpanyin. 

The elephant is big and bulky but the (little) duyker has most ex- 
peiience and sense. 

KvmXah, Better perhaps hintamij an3iihing huge, ponderous, 

Adowa, A species of duyker, in Ashanti stories has a character 
for pertness and cleverness. 

02. Eaono nni wuram* a, anka ek6 ye ghgpgn hi, (3023) 

If the elephant were not in the jungle ('bush '), then the buffalo 
would be one of the greatest of the beasts. 

Nni. Neg. of wq, 

Wuram\ Wura mu, lit. in the grass (bush). The word is used 
in the sense of * the bush *, i, e. jungle, forest, as a whole, whereas 
without the preposition mu, the meaning is restricted to some grass 
or bush in particular. The plural means weeds, i. e. grass or bush 
growing where it is not wanted. Ekwae, kwaem is particularly 
thick bush or dense forest. 

Ankd, See note on No. 733, ankdna. 

Ye. See note on No. 1, ne. 

Ohgpgn. Aboa pgn, port a suffix meaning great, large. 

03. Esdno tia afiri so a, ehhUan. (3031) 

When the elephant treads on a trap, it does not spring (on it). 

AJlri. Many of the traps in use are extremely ingenious. Sum 
afiri is, to set a trap. 

94. Okdka bu sono 8^. (1515) 

Toothache breaks the elephant's tusk. 

Okdka. OkekaWy the many one-tusker elephants are supposed by 
the natives to have lost the second tusk owing to toothache. 
aS?. Also ohm, ejBonO'ben {^=a8ommen). 

96. Nea esono toui n'afikyiri no, ehg aJiaban nhtnd sde. (2244) 

Where an elephant died, all the leaves in his backyard were spoiled. 
(Trampled down by people coming to cut up the meat.) 

Wui. Perfect tense. 
Nafikyiri. Lit. back of house. 


06, Osekah-tid hiako nnud es&no, nnua ho, nnua gdmkyffm-mir&mpgn, 

na wamn agua gnankd, na wasan atwa wo vmra naa^ na 
wgnhgn wo nto ode mu ana ? (2850) 
One little knife which cannot flay an elephant, which cannot flay 
a buffalo, which cannot flay a big-throated crocodile, and yet 
, you have gone out of your way (lit. turned back) to flay 
a python, and gone out of your way to cut your master's hand, 
will you not be plucked from your handle and cast into some 
place (out of the way) 1 

Nnua, Neg. of gua. 
Agua. Subjunctive mood. 

Wqhhqh . • . nto. For note on the negatives see No. 33, m/a, 

07. EsSno di asdwa. (3022) 

An elephant eats the (little) asdwa berries. 

Asawa. Not asawa, the cotton plant, but a shrub with small 
berries, distinguished from the former word by the nasal a. 

98. Eabno afqn a, wgnne mpaJcam-rria gha. (3024) 

When an elephant is thin, that is not to say its meat will not fill 
a hundred baskets. 

Wgmie, Neg. of de. 

99. Esono afgn a, wonnua no herew so. (3025) 

(Even) when an elephant is thin, it is not skinned on a palm leaf. 

Wonnua. Neg. of gua. 
Berew. The oil-palm leaf. 

100. Eaono ho na wghg api/ruwd. (3026) 

It is from the elephant that big lumps of meat are cut. 

Apwruwd. Deriv. perhaps purv/Wy round. 

101. Estmo kdtkrd, na adowa na gde ne ha. (3027) 

The elephant is a huge beast, but it is the duyker that is the (real) 
king of *the bush * (jungle). 

Kdhrd. With the tone rising on the second syllable, and a long 
final a. Kakra, with an even intonation, has exactly the opposite 
meaning, ' little, small '. 

Ha. Eha, the jungle, or *bush', as it is called in West Africa. 
By metonymy the word is used for hunting, ye lut^ ahayg, (the last 
a verbal noun). 


102. Eaono nyd wo a, adowa ho wo m^. (3030) 

When the elephant has got you in his clutches, the (little) duyker 
(comes up) and slaps you. 

103. Obi nny<u stno akyi di nkodi aseredoa akyi, (300) 

No one gives up following an elephant to go and follow the little 
aseredoa bird. 

Another version often heard is, ohi . . . rikoho aseredoa bo. No 
one ... to throw a stone at the aseredoa bird. 

Nnyae . . . nkodi. See note on No. 33, mfa, nsisi. 

104. Obi rmi a&no akyi mmoro hildsti, (256) 

No one (who) is following an elephant has to knock the dew off the 

Nni . . ♦ mmoro. Neg. of di, and boro, 

ffildsu, Deriv. hitd, to brush against, and nsu, water. 

106. Wudi 8ono aJcyi a, worUda, (893) 

When you follow an elephant you do not get entangled (with 
creepers). Cf. No. 104, above. 

106. Obiakofo na okum s&nOj na amuxnsah nMna di, (455) 

It is one man who kills an elephant, but many people who eat its 

Ama/nsan, Deriv. omaw, people, nation, and aah, to draw a line. 
(Cf. santeTC), a long line of people. 

107. Ebia wobedi sono na biribi nhta wOy na wvdi apatd a, na domjpe 

ahta wo. (444) 
Perhaps you will eat a whole elephant and nothing will stick in 
your throat, and then you eat a (little) fish and lo ! a bone 
has stuck in your throat. 

JSbia, Perhaps the word is really a sentence — e bi a, * there is 
something that . * . ' 


NTna, HXa, to stick in the throat ; perhaps the same word as Ma, 
to be in trouble, distress, which is generally used impersonally, 
ehta vm, 

108. Wode kohdrokb na edi amim a, ankd eaono bd>a ojie, (753) 

If mere bulk and size could be used to further greed and violence, 
then the elephant would have come to the haunts of men (to 
seize what he wanted). 


109. Wode sono nhoma bu kotoku, na wode dm dhy&inl (768) 

You may make a bag out of an elephant's hide, but what are you 
going to find to put in it 1 

Bu, The idea is of bending or folding up the skin to form a bag. 

110. Ohi nnim nea esdno di yee keae. (278) 

No one knows what the elephant ate to make it big. 

111. Ohi nsusu stmo yam* mmu ahaban. (346) 

No one breaks off a leaf in order to measure the size of an elephant's 
belly with it. 

Mmu, Neg. of bu. For idiomatic use of the negative see note 
on No. 33, mfa, nsisi, 

Ahabah, Deriv. ha (q.v. No. 101) and ban (?), to lie or be 
arranged in a row (1). 

112. JBnye aduan na esono nyd di Jcyen adowa nti na qye kese sen no, 

It is not the greater amount of food that the elephant eats than the 
duyker that makes it greater in size than he. 

113. Wgmfd akdrd ntow sono, (1084) 

A wax (bullet) is not used to shoot an elephant. 

Ntow. Tow, lit. to throw or cast, as a stone or a spear, hence, 
when guns were introduced, of firing ; lit. * throwing ' a bullet. 

114. Gyata dqso wiram! a, ankla nniim nnya babi ntra, (1260) 

If lions were very numerous in ' the bush ', then man would have no 
place to stay. 

Gyata, Often called simply, ' the great beast ' {aboa kese). 

116. Woboro gyata a, too tirijpd wo, (611) 

If you strike a lion, your own head will pain you (you will not do 
the lion any harm). 

116. Gydhene ho nye den a, gnne kankaru (1257) 

Even when a lion is not a strong lion, it is not called a civet cat. 

Onne, Neg. of de. 

Kankan. Civet cat. Deriv. perhaps, kankan, stinking. 

117. Ade hia osebg a, gibe umra. (800) 

When a leopard is hard pressed for food, it chews grass. 

Wura. See note on No. 92, umram\ 


118. KHrotihiamansd nennan sisia ase ma osisia wosaw biribiri, (1852) 
The leopard that prowls about under the thicket causes the thicket 

to shake greatly. 
Nennan, Reduplication of nam, 

119. KHroliKnamanm fa avmru a, gdannan no hunu, (1851) 

When a leopard catches a tortoise it turns it over and over in vain. 
Awuru, As akyekyere. 
Odannan. Reduplication of dan. 

120. KHrotibiam^insd. se, anam ha mu kwa, akyekyere na ode ne ha. 

The leopard declares he prowls the bush to no pui*pose, and that the 
tortoise really owns his jungle kingdom. 

The following is the story on which the saying is based. A leo- 
pard was prowling about the bush in search of prey, and suddenly 
seeing a tortoise, sprang on it, exclaiming, *Manya wo\ Tve got you*. 
The tortoise, however, replied, * As for me, I have been watching 
you long before you ever saw me '. The saying is quoted in the 
sense that, a king may think he knows all about the affairs of his 
subjects, whereas in reality they probably know a great deal more 
about his. 

121. Ahoa kHrottbtamansd himu ato nija, ankrdna ahoa bi md ibiranC, 

If the leopard could spring upon its prey to the right hand, then 
no animal would be left alive in the bush. 

Lions, leopards, and other animals of the cat tribe are all sup- 
posed, as it were, to be left-handed, that is to say, they spring to the 
left on seizing their prey. A hunter will try to get a left shoulder 
shot in preference to another. Native hunters say they know these 
animals are left-handed by observing that animals found killed by 
leopards, &c., are always, so they say, clawed on the right side, and 
by observing spoor which, when turning, goes off to the left. 

Nifa, Possible derivation, ent fa; mt, honour, (dft no em) and 
fa^ place. There is a scrupulous distinction in many ways between 
the left and the right hand. (See note on No. 725.) 

Ankfrdma. Ankdy ankdna, see note on No. 733. 

Wwrani, See note on No. 92. 

122. Aboa a gsebg antumi anni no, agyinam>oa mfa no afo, (497) 
The animal which the leopard has been unable to kill and eat, the 

cat is not going to eat its carcass. 


Antumi anni, Arvni, neg. of di. For note on the negative see 
No. 33, m/a, nsisi, 

Agyinamoa. Deriv. gyina, to stand, and &mZay ditch, hollow, 
hole. There is a phrase, ojco gyina &mZa^ he has gone to hide him- 
self (lit. gone to stand in a hole), hence of the cat crouching to spring. 
Another common name for the cat is ohra (lit. soul), and an Ashanti 
literally often calls his cat, ' me ghra \ my soul. When one of the 
household is ill and the family cat disappears, hope of recovery is 
given up. The Ashanti s do not eat cats, but the Fan tees do. 
Though not held in any particular veneration they are considered 
as uncanny and never ruthlessly interfered with. 

123. Obi nkyere osebg ha atow. (233) 

No one teaches a leopard's cub how to spring. 

An almost similar saying is common in Malaya, where, as 
Sir Hugh Clifford told the writer, they say, * No one teaches the 
tiger's cub how to kill', — the interpretation in both countries, 
Malay and Ashanti, being the same, i. e. ' The king's sons do not 
need to be taught violence '. 

124. Wode sebo nJioma sua adwinni a, na wode awie. (765) 

When you use a leopard's skin for practising leather work on, it 
shows you have mastered your trade. (Cf. No. 373) 

Adwinni. Adwini, a skilled trade, such as goldsmith, leather- 
worker, &c. ; adwinni (double ri) = adwini di, to practise a trade. 
Leopard-skins, used for omanhene'a drums, litters, &c., are much 
rarer than sheep- or goat- skins, and hence would not be used for 
experimental work unless a man was thoroughly sure of his skill. 

126. Osu five sebg a,nehdna efgw, na ne nwd/ran-nwdran de, empojpak 
When rain beats on a leopard it wets him, but it does not wash out 
his spots. 

Ova, Kain, see note on No. 26, nsu, 

126. ^^0 hum Kranni a, menko no ayi, na Okrdnni hwm *ko a, minni 
ne nam. (1598) 
When a buffalo kills an Accra man, I do not go to his funeral, and 
when an Accra man kills a buffalo, I do not eat its flesh. 

£ko. The West African buffalo or * bush-cow ', probably, after 
the elephant (some might place it first), the most dangerous of all 
animals when wounded and followed up. 


Ayi, See note on No. 66. 

Okranni, Suffix ni for onipuy an Accra man. 

Nkrah is the Accra of the European. 

The saying above quoted is meant to express deep and undying 
hatred, or two persons or conditions that could never have anything 
in common or become reconciled to each other. 

127. Otw'^ dua ye tia a, nea ode pra neko ara nm, (3412) 

The duyker's tail may be short, but it brushes its body with it not- 

Neh, Nen =-neno, 

128. Otwe nhoma sHane nea eye hare. (3413) 

The duyker's skin (hide) splits where it is thinnest. 

Hare, Light, quick, nimble ; here thin, fragile. 

129. Otwl anko guaj ne nhoma kq» (3414) 

The duyker does not go to market, but its skin does. 

Antelope hides are used for covering loads to keep the rain off. 
Ankg, Lit. has not gone. 

130. Otwe n^ qtwl ho na wohu gyahene a, na wohq afa na woguan, 

When two duykers are quarrelling, and they see a lion (coming), 
off they run together (forgetting their quarrel). 

131. Otw^ ani ansen a,na^ bgmmgfo, (3416) 

When the antelope is unhappy, it is the hunter who is the cause. 

Bgrmnofo. Also spelled gbgmofo, and obgfo; deriv. bo to strike, 
to hit. Hunters among this people, with a few exceptions, are not 
as skilful trackers or as close observers of the habits of game as 
their brothers in East and Central Africa. 

They have one accomplishment, however, which, as far as the 
present writer knows or has seen, is not known to the Anyanja, 
Angoni, or Chipeta shikari. They can call up the smaller game, 
bush-buck, duyker, &c., by imitation of the bleat of the doe or kid. 
(Cf. the calling of moose.) 

Hunting among the Ashantis is a recognized profession. It is 
not every native who would care to take the risks involved, for not 
by any means' the greatest of these risks is the actual danger run 
by hunting bush-cow or elephant. The Ashanti shikari runs other 
risks. 'A mad hunter' {obgfo damfo) is a common expression, 


a sort of equivalent of our ' as mad as a hatter '* If the hunter does 
not take great care to propitiate the spirits {sdm) of the larger 
species of game he may kill by ceremonial dances {abofoai), he is 
supposed in time to become mad. The gtrgmo {bongo), is an 
especially dangerous animal in this respect. In a hunter's dance 
the man goes all over again in realistic mimicry the killing of the 
animal whose sdad he wishes to avoid entering his body. . 

Butchers also are thought to go mad sooner or later for a 
similar reason. 

132. Otwd nya nantu a, wokyi, (3417) 

When (you see) a duyker which has a (thick) leg, that is something 
you avoid (make a taboo). 

Nya nantu. Lit. got a calf (on its leg). 

Wokyi, The verb kyi is used in two senses, to hate, to dislike, 
of a person or object, and to hate in the sense of refuse to eat an 
animal or thing owing to some religious (totemic) observance, that 
is, it is exactly rendered by the word taboo. 

The native literally says, *I hate fish', 'I hate goats' flesh*, 
' I hate eggs ', or whatever may be his particular taboo. The deriva- 
tion is possibly the root kyi, back, to turn one's back on, see note 
on No. 89, akyt, 

133. OtwS m'jpdrgw achi kitrorn* ! (3418) 

Let the antelope rot in the hollow of the tree ! (A congener of our 
' dog in the manger '.) 

The following is the story on which the above is founded. 
A certain man had a hunter whom he used to send to kill game 
but he never allowed him the smallest portion of any animal he 
brought in. One day the hunter, having killed an antelope 
(a duyker), hid it in a tree and went and asked his master saying, 
'If I should happen to kill anything to-day, will you give me a 
piece 1 ' The master said * No '. The hunter then went off mutter- 
ing as above, * Let the antelope. . .' 

Adu, For dua. 

134. Odehkyem da nsu mu, nso gnom mframa, (859) 

The crocodile lies in the water, but it also drinks (breathes) the air. 

Nsu. See note on No. 26. 

Onom, Lit. drinks. Cf. Hausa sha iska, to drink the air. 

1<9S E 


136. Odenkyem Hberee sene ibere-pd de, (860) 

A crocodile's skin is sweeter than any other skin. 

The skins of many animals are used to boil down and make soup 
of. Some, sheep's, goat's, &c., only in times of want, others, again, 
as the hippo's and elephant's, are considered a delicacy. 

The word there, skin, is found in many idiomatic expressions, 
which curiously remind one of English slang, e. g. to jump out of 
one's skin; by the skin of one's teeth, save your skin, &c. E.g. ne 
were bo, the price of his skin, the value of a slave ; ne there nso mmd 
no, lit. his skin is not big enough for him ; that is, of a person 
jumping about, fidgety; me ibere Ji, lit. my skin has come out, 
I have forgotten ; me were kyekye, my skin has become tight, I am 
happy, &c. 

'^ere-^. See note on No. 483. 

136. Fwnitimfrafu denkywh frafu, togwo yafwnukoro nanso wonya hirihi 

a, toofom, 7ian80 won nlmiara wo yafunu koro, nanso wodi no 
The * Two-headed crocodiles ' have but one belly for both, yet when 
either of them get anything they fight among themselves for 
it, for though they both have only one belly for each of their 
separate heads, each wants the food to pass down its own 
throat. (This proverb is not among those in the * Tshi 
Proverb' book.) 

Funtumfrafu dehkyem frafu. There is a mythical crocodile sup- 
posed to have two heads and two necks which merge into a common 
belly, which again merges into two tails. This emblem is one of 
the many * Ashanti weights ', most of which are probably symbolical ; 
see note on No. 591. 

This clever metaphor clearly states the ideas of a communistic 


Funttimfrafu. Ftmtum, to collect together, fra, to mix, and 
fu^afunu, belly; furUtim-frafu denkyem frafu, therefore means 
literally, * Bellies mixed up, crocodiles mixed uj) '. 

Won nhtnara. Lit. they all; nhinara^nhind ara. 

Amenemutmtwi, Deriv. amene, throat ; mu, in ; twitwi, to rub, 
i. e. of the food rubbing (in its passage down the gullet) the throat. 

137. ^'*^'*^ fl^w *^^ ^i w« wuse gdmkyem ano 2)ow, (3406) 

When you have quite crossed the river, you say that the crocodile 
has a lump on its snout. 


WtUtba . . . lute. Translate, ' When yoa have finished crossing ', 
' or quite crossed \ The English idiom * to finish doing anything ', 
which is expressed by a finite verb and a participle, is in Ashanti, 
and all other native languages known to the writer, expressed by 
two finite verbs. E.g. *he has finished doing' is translated by two 
finite verbs in two principal clauses, he has done, he has finished. 
Wa is understood before tvte, 

138. Ok6t6 a gda sikd ho po twhre aU. (1 739) 

Even the crab, that lives where the gold dust is, eats palm nuts. 
(Palm nuts are supposed to be the food of poor people.) 

OkdtS, Either the land or sea crab. Grab claws are tied on 
the hair of a child whose brothers and sisters have all died (such 
a child is called hegyinaha^ lit. ' it will stand (remain) child '). See 
also note on No. 486, hohuobi, for prefix ^ko added to names of 
such children by way of cheating Death into supposing the child 
is really a slave, and also No. 574 note. 

Ho, Here a locative complement of the verb da. 
Twere. To skin with the teeth. 

139. QkM hwo anama. (1740) 

A crab does not give birth to a bird. 

140. QMit6 bene asuo Hi na onim amo kaad, (1741) 

Because the crab lives near the river he knows the language of the 
Bene. Perhaps past tense. 
'Ti, For nti. 
Kasa. Speech, language; deriv. kd aseml^), 

141. Okbtt ho pemmo a, qsan vCakyL (1742) 

When a crab falls down plump on its bottom, it turns back. (To 
fall so is considered a bad omen.) 

142. OkU6 fof<yr6 ajper^ mu nni nam, (1743) 
A young crab has no meat in its claws. 

Fofar6, Lit. new, here ' young *. 
Nni. Neg. of wo. 

143. Ok6t6 gtuin a, oguan kg 2>om\ (1744) 

When a crab runs away it is towards the sea it flees. 

E 2 


144, Ok6t6 na onim sika dahere. (1745) 

It is the crab that knows where the gold dust is to be found. 
Dabere, Lit. *the sleeping-place of*. 

146. Ok6t6 annyd adayS nti na gda amoa mu, (1746) 

Because the crab has no good place to sleep in, it lives in a hole. 
AdayL Da^ to lie, to sleep, and ye, good. 

146. Ok6t6 po di mkqm, na menne gkwahi a gda gsoro, (1747) 

Even the crab gets thirsty, not to speak of the monkey that sleeps 
up above. 

Stikdm, Lit. water hunger, nsu gJcgm, 
Menne, Neg. of de. 

147. Ahoa dompo wai asv/mguarede nti na gnam asu ho bg ak6t6. (505) 
Because the otter (?) has made no preparation for the washing- of 

its soul, that is why it walks about digging for crabs (to offer 
to the soul). 

Nni asvmgttarede, Di asv/mguarede {asu-mu-guare-ade). The fol- 
lowing is an account of *a soul washing* (gkra-giuire-ade ; gkra- 
guarede). Perhaps once a year an Aehanti fixes on a day on which 
to wash his gkra (soul or spirit). See note on No. 9, nhrahea. 
The relatives are informed, and as many pure white fowls collected 
as the person can afford. 

On the appointed day the fowls are carried down to the water in 
an awowa (brass or metal bowl). Adimra^ (a small plant) and 
nsome leaves which have been collected are then dipped in the 
water and the fowls are sprinkled over. The person who is wash- 
ing his soul then addresses it, asking it to prosper him and bring 
him luck. (This part of the ceremony may also be performed at home). 
On returning to the house the fowls are killed and the blood sprinkled 
about the corners of the house compound. Yams or plantains are 
mashed and cooked (no oil being used in order that they may be 
white). These and the fowls are eaten by the assembled friends. 
There is for that day a complete cessation of all work ; no one can 
demand payment of a debt or swear the king's oath (see note 
on No. 496, lookd) on the person on that day. The idea of a good 
or perhaps rather, lucky gkra being white is a strong belief; gkra 
bin, black soul, is said of an extremely unlucky man ; there is no 
connexion with morality or purity of soul in our sense of the word. 

^ The town of Ejura (which should rightly be spelled Edwira) is so 
called after the plant. 


148. Kgtgkd rekg kotgkd a, gm/a adidicU. (1750) 

When the porcupine is going to visit the porcupine, he does not 
take any food with him. 

Kgtdkd, The Ashantis call themselves Asante Kgt6k6^ the 
Ashanti Porcupines. The saying above means, when an Ashanti 
man goes on a visit to an Ashanti man he will rely on the hospi- 
tality of his host. The idea in the name Asante Egt6k6, is ' nemo 
me impune lacessit \ 

Adidide, Adidi (reduplication of di, and ade). 

149. Aboa akyekyeree nni ntama, nsoso au^w n/ne no da. (522) 

The tortoise has no cloth, hair, or wool, nevertheless it does not 
ever feel the cold. 

Nnt, Neg. of tug, 

Nsoso, Reduplication of nso. 

Nne, Neg. of de, 

150. Mmoadomd nhindforo ho, akyekyere nkgforo hi, wapgn afihe. 

All animals (can) climb stones, but let the tortoise try to, and he 
tumbles down. (Said of an unlucky person.) 

N'kgforo, Imperative mood, with the auxiliary kg. Lit. let him 
go and climb. 

Wajygn. Perfect tense, *he has fallen dowjj '. See note on No. 757. 

161. Akyekyere nni nufu, nso gwo a, onim n^ea gye yen ne ha. (1924) 
The tortoise has not any milk, but when it gives birth, it knows 

how to rear its child. 

Nufu. By metonymy for nufiisu {mifu nsu), lit. breast water. 

162. Akyekyere kg serew serew na oguan ara nen. (1925) 

The tortoise goes off in a laughable manner, but he can escape all 
the same. 

Nen ■■ ne no, 

153. Akyekyere na gkyere ne hgbere na wghg no, (1926) 

It is the tortoise itself that exposes its vulnerable spot (the head) 
and has it struck. 

When the natives want to kill and eat a tortoise (the flesh of 
which is much relished), they scratch the tortoise on the back, which 
makes it show its head. 

164. Akyekyere pe ne yere amanne, ose, ' Wgw m*akyi mmesd {wgw mmesd 
gu m*atiko\ nd mehkgjwe agoru\ (1928) 


When the tortoise seeks a quarrel with his wife he says, * Plait the 
tress of hair falling down my back and let me be off in search 
of some fun'. 

166. Akyekyere se, * Obarima mfere aguan \ (1929) 

The tortoise says, ' A man need not be ashamed to run away '. 

Mfere. F&re has a gieat variety of meanings, the idea of em- 
barrassment or shyness seeming to be at the root of all. It is 
used of the respectful fear a child should have for a parent, and 
also for the strictness with which a parent treats his child. (See 
No. 378.) The word is used in a religious (religious in the wide 
sense, as in Tylor's famous 'minimum definition') signification, 
e.g.fere Onyankopahy sometimes in the place of A:yt(q.v. No. 132), 
to shun, to make taboo; and as in the sense used above, fear of 
ridicule. Cf. No. 718. 

156. Akyekyere «e, ' Ntem ye^ na ojom ye\ (1931) 

The tortoise says, ' Haste is a good thing and deliberation is also 
a good thing '. 

2^5Y, Nhwi nye-nd a, anka akyekyere nni hi ? (1467) 

If hair was not diflficult to grow, would not the tortoise have some 1 

Nye-nd. Na is suffixed to certain verbs and gives the verb the 
idea of difiiculty in the performing of the action implied in the 
verb. Thus y^-na, difficult to be done ; tow-noiy difficult to throw, &c. 

168. Woko awuru kHrom* na odi dote a, wvdi hi, (1684) 

When you go to the village of the tortoise and it eats earth, you 
eat some oo. (Cf. No. 297.) 

Awuru, Another name for the toiioise, akyekyere, 

169. A wuru rewea {no) ne ha reivea, {na) hena na ohegye won tdtd ? (3504) 
The tortoise crawls, and his child crawls, and which will take the 

other and teach him how to walk upright ? 

Reibea, Present continued action, expressed by re, 
Ohegye won tdtd, Gye tatd, to teach an infant how to walk. 
Tdidy lit. baby language, spoken to the child to encourage it to try 
and stand and walk towards the person who is holding out the hands 
to receive (gye) it. 

160. Qketiw a qtare podo hZ ho ye tow-nd, (1542) 

It is difficult to throw a stone at a lizard which is clinging to a pot 
(without breaking the pot). 


Glare, Tare has the idea in it of anything adhering to or lying 
close up against a thing ; hence, to plaster with mud (the wall of 
a house). Here of the lizard lying close up against the pot. 

Ho. A complement of the verb tare, 

Tow-na, See note above, t^o. 167, nye-na, 

161. OJdetew ne ketebo se din na wgns^ konam. (1545) 

The lizard {okUhv) and the antelope {Jcetd)o) have names which are 
similar, but their appearance is not the same. 

162. Oketiw nim se ayanikaw heha nti na obutuw siei. (1546) 
Because the lizard knows its belly will become painful, it lies down 

on it (before the pain comes). 

Any one who has watched lizards will have noticed them press* 
ing their bellies against the ground, raising themselves up again 
on their two fore feet, then laying themselves flat again, for all the 
world like one of Sandow*s exercises, where you raise and lower 
yourself with your arms, while lying face down on the ground. 

The chameleon's belly is supposed to burst and the animal to 
die on its giving birth. 

The natives consider lying on the stomach a cure for belly-ache. 
The saying albove is the Ashanti congener of our 'prevention is 
better than cure '. 

Siei, See note on No. 10, adi a^sie, 

163. Oketiw wo yam aduru a, ankd yam arm no adurade, (1547) 
Had the lizard medicine against eczema, then its body would not be 

clothed with eczema. 

Yam. A skin disease (eczema 1). The rough mottled bodies of 
some lizards give them the exact appearance of having some skin 

Adwrade. A shirt or burnous. 

164. Oketew nwem>akonaJifirimJi attberorg. (1548) 

The lizard does not eat pepper and sweat break out on the frog. 
(A man bears the brunt of his own actions.) 

Atwergrg, A small frog. The common word for frog is ajpotorq. 
Both words are onomatopoetic, rg rg suggesting the croaking of frogs. 

166. Nwaw de neko sie a, na wgfa no tope. (3427) 

If the snail takes care of itself, when it is taken, it will be taken 
as a big snnil. 


Snails are collected and strung on sticks ; they fetch a big price 
and are considered a great delicacy. 
To^, A full-grown snail. 

16e, Nwaw wu nkwan mu a, empdrgw. (3430) 

When a snail dies in the soup, it does not rot, 

167. Otog de ahoyerew na oka. (3446) 

It is owing to being disturbed that a snake bites. 

168. Qiog aduru, wglew no akoghare, (3447) 

The herbs to apply to a snake bite are quickly plucked. 

169« Oiog nka onijHi kwa. (3448) 

A snake does not bite a man without a cause. 

170. Qwq nkesua nko na ebesuw tvuram* a, ankd hirihiara nseee e. (3449) 
If it were only snakes* eggs that were addled in * the bush ', that 
would not have mattered at all. 

Nseee e. Lit. nothing would have been spoiled at all. The final 
particle e^ makes the statement very emphatic. 

171. Owo te se hdma, na womfa nkyekyere ade, (3461) 

A snake is like rope, but it is not (for that reason) taken to bind 
a thing with. 

172. Aboa nankd nim adeky^ a, ankd gda nwia-da? (524) 

If the python knew when it was dawn, would it sleep in the day- 

Nwia-da, Lit. ' day sleep *. 

173. Wonhu gtvg ti a, wgmmig no aha, (1450) 

Unless you see a snake's head, you do not strike at it (any other part 
of the body). 

Wonhu . . . wginmg, 3rd pers. plural, can be translated by passive, 
or * you ', indefinite pronoun. 

174. Onankanini da ase anya gntvdm. 

The python lies on the ground and has got a toucan. 

This proverb is represented among the Ashanti weights. (Cf. 
No. 136). 

See note on No. 591. 

The saying is used meaning that a man need never despair of 
getting anything, however impossible it may seem at the time. 


Insects; The Spideb, Fly, Ants. 

176. Aboa ananse nam na gso ne dan, (525) 

The spider walks and carries his house (web). 

Aboa, See note on No. 89, aboa, 

Ananse, The spider in Ashanti folk-lore comes easily first as 
the hero in most of their animal tales. To such an extent has this 
been so, that the very word for a story in this language, be the 
spider one of the dramatis personse or not, is anansesem, i. e. ananse 
aserrij lit. words about a spider. YThat these stories probably had 
a religious or totemic origin seems possible, for to this day a sobri- 
quet for the Supreme Being is Ananse kohrokS^ the Great Spider '. 
The spider is credited with being very wise, but in Hausa folk-lore 
he is rather of the lovable rogue order. The following little story, 
out of the scores current, is given, being a literal translation taken 
down from the lips of a native. 

^ The Spider collected all the wisdom of the world and shut it up 
in a gourd, and was climbing up a tree to deposit it on the top. 
He got into difficulties, however, before he reached half-way up, as 
he had tied the gourd on to his belly, and it hindered him from 
climbing properly. His son, Ntikumclj who was watching him, said, 
" Father, if you had really all the wisdom of the world with you, 
you would have had sense enough to tie the gouiU to your back ! *' 
His father, seeing the truth of this, threw down the gourd in 
a temper. It broke, and the wisdom it contained became scattered, 
and men came and picked up what each could carry away.' 

The wife of the spider is known as Konori or Konoro\ 

176. Ananse a qm/pe anwene bi anwene, na qnwene temjpon mu. (2098) 
A spider which does not really wish to spin spins its web on a much 
frequented road (where the people passing soon break it). 

Anwene, Nwene, to weave or plait. This word is also used for 
the moulding of a pot, in- which use we probably have a survival 
showing that pots were once made by first making a basketwork 
frame on to which the clay was daubed. A further relic of this 


method of manufacture may be seen in the criss-cross designs whicl 
are sometimes used to ornament pots. 


177. Ananse se ascmtrqfi se, * Se toobefihe ase so a, five ase so, se nso wobedi 

nkorowa hene a, fihe nkorowa hene so di \ (2099) 
The spider says to the night-jar (1) * If you are going to look after 
the beans, look after the beans, but if you are going to be 
leader in the rikorowa dance, then confine your energies to that' 
(lit. be leader in the nkorowa dance). 

The following is the story on which the above saying is based. 
The night-jar ()) had a plantation of beans which he had reason to 
suppose the spider used to come and steal from. Now, both he and 
the spider were very fond of dancing the rjcorowa dance, and the 
spider used to take advantage of this, and steal off to the bean farm 
whenever he saw the night-jar at the dance. One day the asantrofi 
hit on the following plan to circumvent the spider. Plucking out 
some of his feathers, he stuck them in a clay model and set it up in 
his bean garden and then returned to the dance. The spider, see- 
ing him ; thus engaged, managed to slip away and went off to steal 
the beans. Much to his surprise he found what he thought to be 
the asantrofi bird there, and so again returned to join the duncers. 
Lo, and behold, there was the asantrofi among the revellers I Off he 
slipped to the beans once more, but again there was the night-jar. 
Returning once more and finding the night-jar (back, as he thought), 
at the dance, he addressed him in the words of the saying quoted 
above. The saying is meant to imply that there is often some 
ulterior motive underlying what looks like merely friendly advice. 

178. Ananse anion Jcasa. (2100) 
The spider has not sold words. 

He has given them freely. The allusion is to the great number 
of spider stories current among the Ashantis, among whom in fact 
eveiy story is known as anansesenty lit. * words about the spicier ', 
whether the spider appears or is alluded to in the story at all. 
See note on No. 175, on ananse.) 

Anton, Perfect tense. 

179. Agya Ananse adi asemmone na ^yepam no, na wannyd hahi ankorg 

na qsm jpadee ani, (1240) 
Father Spider did wrong and we drove him away, and as he had no 
place to go he hangs from the crossbeams of the roof. 


For the story on which this saying is founded see note on 
No. 176. 

Asemmone^Asem bone. 

Ankorg. Akan dialect for kg. For note on the negative see 
No. 33, mfa, nsisi. 

180. Agya Ananse nwoo ne ha Ntikwmd na gtog nea gso ne hgtg, (1241) 
Before Father Spider hegot his son Ntikuma he had some one to 

carry his bag. 

This saying is quoted in the sense of * you are not indispensahle, 
and can go if you want to, I can get some one to take your place ', 
or, ' I managed quite well hefore I had you/. 

Nwoo, Past tense, formed by lengthening of final vowel. 

NtiJcvma, See note on No. 175. 

181. Efere nti na agya Ananse de gtim kyew hye adqw, (1112) 
Because of shame Father Spider takes an antelope skin hat when 

he goes to ask people to come and assist him at his hoeing. 

Hye adgw, Cf. Jiye da, to appoint a day for doing anything. 
The meaning is somewhat obscure. The following interpretation 
may be given. Antelope skin hats (not now seen anywhere) were 
worn thirty or forty years ago by some 'elders'. The allusion 
may be to the markings on the bodies of some spiders not unlike 
a spotted bush-buck's skin. The spider is supposed to have put 
on this hat to cover some blemish on his head. 

\ ; , 

182. MiregvAire aughyew na ananse reguare ne mma, na meguare suon- 

winiel (1237) 
I bathe in hot water, and the spider keeps washing his children in 
it, so I shall wash in cold water and what can he do then ? 

When water bubbles and * sings ' on being boiled, these natives 
say * There is Father Spider washing his children ^ The saying is 
quoted in the sense of ' Til get the better of him somehow '. 

183. Ohi nto anansesem nkyere Ntikuma, (359) 
No one tells stories to Ntikiknd, 

Nto . . . nkyere. For the double negative see note on No.' 33. 

Ananses^, Lit. ' words about the spider ', but this is the term 
used for any story whatever, even one in which the spider does not 
appear in any way. 


NtikumcL The spider's child. As the spider is the fount and 
origin of all stories, the son, Mikumd, would be supposed to know 
every story in the world, having heard them from his father. The 
saying is used in the sense of * I know all about that, tell me some- 
thing I do not know '. (See note on No. 175, ananse), 

184. ^luansana de ne nsa gu fCakyi a, ost^ * Nea ajca dkyiri na edgso '. 
When the fly stretches his legs (lit. hands) behind him, he says, 
* There still remains a lot to come' (lit. what is behind is 

If one watches a fly closely it will sometimes be seen to stretch 
its feet backward over its body. This proverb is used in the sense 
of *I have done a great deal for you, but you can still hope for 
future signs of favour.' 

186. Nwansana ampa funu hid a, wgde no sie, (2571) 

When a fly does not get up off a dead body, he is buried with it. 

Funu. Efiinu, Deriv. funu^ useless, rotten, hence a carcass, 
dead body. 

Ampa, The ho is probably the reflexive pronoun, and pa AS, to 
take itself o£F. It might, however, be taken as complement oifunu. 


186. Nwansana pdbiy onni am.Oy na 6tw^e bebun, (2572) 

The bluebottle fly (1) has no mouth, but it can strip the green palm 

Onni, Neg. of tug, 

Bebun, Deriv. ahe, and bun, green, unripe. 

187. Nwansana pobi si obey a mu a, wotaforo mu. (2573) 
Though the bluebottle fly sits on the dish, you lick inside it. 

Abeya, Akyem dialect, in Ashanti aibowa, 

188. Nwansana ye sisi a, onsi gya mu. (2575) 

Wherever else a fly is going to alight, it does not alight on fire. 

Ye sisi. Here ye is an auxiliary verb having the meaning of 
* about to ', * be prepared to '. 

189# Ohurii di bem, nwansana na qye me se, (1463) 

Now surely the tsetse had good reason to bite me (as every one 
knows it is a biting fly), for here is the common house fly doing 
the same (and it is not supposed to bite at all). 


; This saying is quoted in the sense of * I prefer, if I must be badly 
treated, to be badly treated by a superior and not by my equal or 
inferior ', or, again, it was a saying often put in the mouths of slaves 
who, when their old master had died and left them to his nephews, on 
being badly treated by thera, would say that after all they could not 
blame their former master for any bad treatment, here were his 
nephews doing the same. 

190. Ohurii nni gyamfo, (1464) 

The biting fly has no one to come to his aid in trouble. (Cf. 
No. 192, below.) 

Gyamfo, For note on suffix fo see No. 78, kontromft, 

191. Ohurii si ahyehyere akyi kwa, (1465) 

The biting fly gets nothing by alighting on the back of the tortoise. 

192. * Meha nnipa nhincby nti na ohurii armya ogyamfo, (1480) 

' I shall bite all men,' because of that the tsetse has no one to come 
to his aid in trouble. 

193. Mf6te ipam anaa-na wqaye ya, (1146) 

Ants have to unite (in great numbers) before they (can) make 
a noise. 

Yd, A hissing sound. 

P&m. Nasal a. Pam^ probably the same root, means to join, to 
mend by placing together. 

Woaye, Lit. have made. Perfect tense. 

194. Mfqtee te se dwie, Tianso g ne no use. (1147) 

A white ant is like a louse, and yet they are not really the same. 

Dime Also dibiw, 

196. Mfqte a tvutou a wobedi wo nam no, na wote ho a, wqibe wo tarn, 
The white ants that will, when you die, devour your flesh, when 
you are alive eat your clothes. 

il . . . a. The first a is the relative pronoun, the second the 
adverb, introducing the adverbial clause of time. 

196. Obi fikqtoa qhahini wg nl hhn and nd onse se^ ' Wo ho hgn \ (2 1 5) 
No one tracks a black ant to the mouth of its hole and then says, 
* You stink \ 


Nkgtoa . . . onu. For note on the second negative see No. 33, 
wfa^ nsin, 

Ohahini. The large black ant, which has a most offensive smell ; 
not the large biting ant, which is nkrdn. 

197. Obi nnyina nkrdn mit ntviH nkrdn (313) 

No one stands among black ants and picks off black ants. 

198. Nkesua to nkrah mu a, ma enna mu, na lognam ho kwa. (1539) 
When an egg M\a among black ants, let it lie there, for they will 

walk over it without being able to do it any harm. 



BiBDS : The Hen and Cock, Vulture, Hawk, Parrot, 

Birds in General. 

199. Obi nton ne kokqhere kwct, (363) 

No one sells his (laying) hen without a good reason. 

Kokgbere, Kgko, akokg, a fowl ; bere, feminine suffix ; ahokonini, 
a cock. An onomatopoetic word, cf. Chinyanja, nkukuy and Hausa, 

200. Akoko nom nsfu a, ode kyere Onyankopqn, (1653) 

When a fowl drinks water, it (first) takes it and shows it to the 
Snpreme Being. 

This pretty idea is of course derived from noticing the habit 
a fowl has of throwing its head back when it is drinking. 
Onyankopgn. See note on No. 1 on Onyctmi, 

201. Akokg di wo yonko aivi a, jpam no, na dahi ohedi wo de, (1644) 
When a fowl is eating your friend's grain, drive it away, for some 

day it will eat yours. 

202. Akoko ani sd bUrofua. (1652) 

The fowl's eye is keen to see the single grain of corn. 

203. Akokg se, * Ade ansa a, ankd mem^ ? ' (1655) 

The fowl says, * If it had not got dark, should I have had my fill t ' 

Ade ansa. Lit. ade asa, thing(s) are finished, i.e. it is dark. Cf. 
ade kye^ lit. thing(s) appear, i.e. it is dawn. 
A ilka. See note on No. 733. 
Memee. Past tense formed by lengthening of final vowel. 

204. Akokg nan nkum ha. (1648) 

The hen's foot does not kill (her) chicken. 

Nan, Sometimes nantarrC (i.e. *in the space between the feet') 
is given instead of nan, in this saying. 

205. Akokg hyen kye ofie a, c^re. (1646) 

When a white fowl remains a long time in a house, it gets red 
(with earth and dust). 


206. Akokg ntakdra na emd akoko ye kese, (1668) 
It is the feathers on a fowl that make it big. 

Na, See note on No. 1 , na, 

(This saying has been heard in the sense that, it is the namber 
of subjects whom a chief has who make him important.) 

207. Akokg ntakdra nyin a, etvMua ne konam mu, (1659) 

When the feathers of a fowl grow, they still remain attached to its 

Cf. No. 206, above. The feathers are here again likened to the 
subjects of a chief who even when they increase in wealth or 
importance should still be subject to their chief. 

208. Wo kyere akokgtan a, wo tase ne nvma kwa, (1966) 

When you have caught the mother hen, you pick up the chickens 
without difficulty. 

Akokotan. The suffix tan, applied equally to animals and persons, 
denotes a state of parentage. 

209. Obi ntHba akoko ano mmd akye. (386) 

No one says * Good morning ' before the cock has done so. 

Ntwa ano. Lit. to cut the mouth, i.e. forestall in speaking. 
The day ends roughly when a man retires to rest. A child born at, 
say, 1 p.m. on a Monday is called Kwahena, i. e. Tuesday's child. 

210. Akokohere nim adekyie, na ofive onini ano, (1664) 

The hen knows when the dawn comes, but she nevertheless looks 
to the cock (to make it known). 

211. Akokonini how nm na ne there afi akdromd. (1669) 
When the cock is drunk he forgets about the hawk. 

nere afi. See note on No. 136. 

212. A kokonini se, * To tamfo nko a, ankd mahgn anadibo na wgakum me \ 

The cock says, ' Had I nothing but enemies left, then when I have 
crowed in the night I should have been killed *. 

A cock crowing at midnight or long before dawn is immediately 
killed, as it is considered unlucky. Cf. custom in Scotland of 
rubbing a cock's feet with salt which crowed before the usual time. 


213. Okokonini, gyas woh^ kyere, na wo ria ne ke8ua h&no, (1671) 

O cock, leave off being puffed up with pride ; after all, your mother 
was only an egg-shell. 

Hono, Used of the outer covering of things, husk, bark, shell. 

214, Ohi mfa akoko nanase ode, mfa nkgto akokofwerew nanase, (161) 
No one takes the string of beads off a fowl's leg and goes and puts 

it on the leg of a partridge. 

(The owner often identifies a fowl by a bit of cloth, string, or 
beads round its leg.) 

Nancise ade. Lit. the thing at the bottom of a foot or leg. 

J//a, nkgto. Note the negative verbs following the first nega- 
tive mfa. See No, 33, mfa, nsisi. 

216, Akokg nni aso nanso onnya ne aotgre a, logde ho no ara, (1651) 
A fowl has no ears, so does not get them boxed, but it gets its 
beating all the same. 

Sotgre, Deriv. aao, ear, and tore, to fall on (?). 

216. Akokg^Hi na gwo asense, asense {se), * Me nko mifi hi ? ' (1654) 
An ordinary fowl hatches out an asense chicken, and the asenae 

one (asks in wonder) saying, * I alone, where did I come from 1 ' 

A sense, A fowl with curled ruffled feathers. 

217. Akokg se, * Kyere akyekyere tutu no \ na ono akyekyere se, * N'a wo de, 

woahere\ (1656) 
The fowl says, * Catch the tortoise and pluck it,' but he (the tortoise) 
replies, ' As for you, you will (lit. have tired) tire of trying 
Akyekyere. Also called awiiru, 

218; Akokg ti si ahe na uogrebg mufe ? (1660) 

How big is a fowl's head that they should be striking at it 1 

St aJie. Lit. it stands how much, i.e. it is not large enough 
to warrant one hitting it if one does not want to kill the fowl 

219. Okokoninij gyae aku/ntun-akuntun, na yen nhind ye kesua mma. 
Cock, desist from self-glorification, for we are all the children of 

Ahmtwh. Lit. to bend, hence to walk with an affected gait, to 


220. Akoko a wo ne no da no, wompe no ntem. (1641) 

The fowl which sleeps in the same hut as yourself, you are not in 
a hurry to go and search for (you know it will come back to 
roost, and you will be able to catch it then). 

221. Akokg da nt&m a onyi kaw mmd ne wv/ra, (1642) 

When a fowl comes soon to roost, it does not get its master into 

222. Akoko n^ krakum ko. (1660) 
The fowl and the turkey quarrel. 

Krakum, Dutch, kalkoen, 

223. Merehekumft akokg, makum ohereku na mafwe se adekyee heye dm ? 

I am going to kill (my) fowl, (and) I have (already) killed the clock 
bird C?), in order to see what the dawn will do. 

(The coming of dawn is not what causes the cock to crow or the 
ohereku to give forth its liquid notes, but rather these are the cause 
of the dawn breaking, in the native mind.) 

I^a mafwe. Subjunctive mood. 

AdekyZe. See note on No. 203, ade ansa. 

224. Wunim nyansa hebrehe a, womJa akoko aky?i, (2331) 

If you are too wise a man (said in a sarcastic sense), you say * Good 
morning' to a fowl (i.e. you will find yourself led into com- 
mitting some supreme folly). 

225. Woko obi kurom na okum akokg ma wo di a, enye ne de no na 

woadiy na wo de a gv)gfie no na woadi, (1668) 
When you go to some one's town and he kills a fowl for you to eat, 
it is not his fowl you have eaten, but your own which is at 

226. Ahoa kokosakyi kasa kyere ohoniikyerefo a, ote. (513) 
When the vulture gives the hyena advice, he heeds it. 

KokosaJcyi, Also 02)ete and akram/^a^ the vulture. 

OhonHkyirefo, Also called patakuj the hyena. 

The saying is based on the following story. The mother of 
the hyena died and all his friends assembled to take part in the 
funeral custom. Day after day passed, and still the body remained 
uuburied, and the mourners began to feel the pangs of hunger. 


The hyena alone seemed to remain plump and fat and in no hurry 
to hring the obsequies to an end by allowing the body of his 
mother to be buried. Now the reason was that he was all the 
time visiting the spot where the corpse was and eating some of it. 

The vulture, which had been attracted by the smell, had seen 
all the hyena was doing, and on the mourners again pressing the 
hyena to bury the body, and on his again refusing to do so, drew 
him aside and told him he had seen all that was going on, where- 
upon the hyena, fearing disclosure, quickly agreed to bury the 

The saying means that two persons of similar natures and tastes 
soon mutually understand each other. 

227. A boa kdkosakyi nni tuOy na otqh asonmim, (514) 

The vulture has not a gun, but he sells elephants* tusks. 

Nni. Neg. of wo. 
Asommen, See note on No. 94, se. 

Dead elephants, and other game are often located by vultures 
wheeling aloft above the carcass. 

228. Aboa kdkosakyi se akasadi nti na oka sumdna so^ (516) 

The vulture says it is in order to avoid payment (for what he eats) 
that he remains on the dung-hilL 

Akasadi, Deriv. di kasa, to fine or make liable for expenses 

229. Aboa akramjm, wvdi bi bin na obi nni wo de. (517) 

Vulture, you eat the excrement of every one, but no one eats yours. 

230. Kdkosakyi aJcramjydy ne din anye de, na ne Jid anye hudm, (1679) 
The vulture has not a good name and its body has not a good 

HHJam, Of a good smell '^ boh used only of a bad smell. 

231. Kdkosakyi mpe qfie aba ay ahkd onsisi sumdna so, (1680) 

If the vulture did not wish to come into the house, it would not 
stand about on the dung-hill. 

232. Kdkosakyi se, odomjpo ho boh, (1681) 
The vulture says that the civet cat stinks. 

Boh. See note above, No. 230. 

F 2 


288. Opete takdra tiba oibira nkontompo a, otu twene, (2691) 

When a vulture's feather tells its master a lie, he (the vulture) 
plucks it out and casts it away. 

OiJbira = Ovmra, 

284. O^^e Ao 9ia 6^§ nA^ioa^ea, 9ian«o o%t a^t^re-anm. (2687) 

A vulture's body is a foolish looking thing, yet even he does not eat 
without fii*st having had his bath. 

Okyi, See note on No. 132, wohyi. 

Aguare-anni, The following is one interpretation given to the 
writer of the above, * A Hausa man, whom every pne knows stinks, 
may be seen bathing his haixds and feet ' (ceremonial ablutions). 

236. Osansafin ahwn/wnC reba se, * Mekokyere nij^ madi ', na afd ahmia 
akokg, (2775) 
The hawk comes swooping down from the sky saying, * I am going 
to catch a man and eat him ', and behold I he makes off with, 
a fowl. 

Modi. Subjunct., lit. that I may eat. Na is understood. 

236. Osansa kg abuw a, ode vHahyi gyaw akromSt. (2776) 

When the hawk goes to sit on lier eggs, she leaves the akroma 
(another kind of hawk) to keep her watch (in the sky). 

237. Ako ntakd/ra, se vmhu ne nko a, ntow no bo, na ofi dodow mu. 

A parrot's feather, if you see but a single one, do not throw a stone 
at it, for it comes from where there are a great many more. 

238. Ako ano ye den a, obi nicy ere no nni, (1607) 

Because the parrot has a loud voice, no one catches hold of it to eat it. 

Ano ye den. Lit. mouth is hard. This, in connexion with the 
parrot, might perhaps be given its literal meaning ' mouth (beak) 
is hard', but the phrase is generally used in the sense of, loud 
mouthed, blustering. 

Nkyere . . . nni, Nni, negative of di. For note on the double 
negative see No. 33, mfUf nsisi. 

239. Ako mjpe $e obi hu ne nkesua nti na qtovo gu duairi, (1608) 

A parrot lays its eggs in the hollow of a tree because it does not 
wish any one to see them. 


240. Arwma hiako wo wo naam* a, eye sen nnomd du a ewg ahunum\ 

One bird in your hand is better than ten birds in the sky. 

Wo, Here the verb takes the place of the preposition in English. 
Wo has here its original meaning of ' to stick to (a person, place, or 
thing) ', from which is derived its subsidiary meaning of ' to be *, * to 
exist in '. 

Eye, The verb ye, to be good ; not to be confused with ye, to be, 
to make, to do. 

Sen, See note on No. 261, nnam kyen, 

241. Arwma hiara vm wq soro a, eye den ara a, ne ntakara ha gu fanh\ 

When any bird dies in the sky, whatever happens (lit. whatever it 
does), its feathers come falling to the earth. (Cf. No. 754.) 

242. Anoma hone na geee ne herebuw. (2482) 
The bad bird fouls its own nest. 

Na. Emphatic particle, translated here by the definite article. 
Oaee, Perhaps past tense, * fouled '. 

Berehuw, Deriv. 6ere, place, and huw, to sit on, to squat on, 
hence * nest *. 

243. Anoma de akg-n^-aba na mwene herebuw. (2483) 

The bird makes (lit. weaves) its nest by going and coming. 

244. Anoma kese antu a, obua da. (2484) 

"When a big (full-grown) bird does not trouble to fly (in search of 
food), it goes to sleep hungry. 

Ohua da. To fast ; lit. to cover up (the food) (and) sleep. 

245. AnJoma koro di aihi a, otiatia so. (2487) 

When one bird alone eats the gi ain, it treads it under foot (there 
being more than it can eat). 

AiH. Guinea com. 

246. Anoma kye dua so a, ogye ho. (2488) 

When a bird remains too long on a tree, it has a stone thrown at it. 

Ogye ho. Lit. it receives a stone. 

247. An^ma nSim nkgso kye. (2489) 

There is not enough meat in a bird to divide up (among a number 
of persons). 
Nkoso. So, to reach. 


248. An^ma ne nua ne nea g ni no da. (2490) 

It is one of its own family that a bird roosts with. 

NiMi, Here in its wide sense of any one who has traced descent 
through the mother's side. See note on No. 37, abvsua, 

249. Arwma ano ware a, ode dtdi asuogya na gmfd ntwa asu, (2492) 
When a bird has a long bill, it uses it for eating on its own side 

of the river and not for stretching across the water (to eat on 
the opposite bank). 

This saying is often heard quoted in cases of land disputes. 


Domestic Animals : The Dog, Cat, Sheep and Goats, 

Cattle and Hobses. 

260. Okrdmdn a gkg ahayq wanhu, 7ia agyinamoa na gbeye dm ? (1765) 
The dog which has gone a huntiDg has not had any luck, so what 

can the cat (hope to) do 1 

^^yo. Ye ha, to hunt. See No. 101, ha. 
Agyinamoa. See note on No. 122, agyinamoa. 

261. Wo kramdn se gb^yere atmo amJa wo a, gdddd wo, (1769) 
When your dog says he will catch an elephant for you, he is 

deceiving you. 

Sono. See note on No. 89, esdno. 

AmJa. Suhjunct. mood. The verh here takes the place of the 
English preposition, for. 

Odadd, Also sisi and gyige, with similar meaning. 

262. Okr&mHn se gremfa qy&re da^ na of a gyere no, gfa n' agya yere. (l 770) 
The dog says he will never commit adultery, hut when he does so, 

he commits it with his own father's wife. 

Oremfa gyere. Fa gyere, lit. to take (another's) wife, euphemistic 
for 'to commit adultery*. For note on gyere see No. 88. 

No. Note that this adverbial particle, like yi, does not only intro- 
duce a subordinate clause of time in which the event takes place in 
the past, but also one in which the verb may be present or future. 

263. Okrdmdn ne atiremsem da neho, na mna ne tirim. (1773) 

A dog*s thoughts lie in his chest, but not in his head. (That is, he 
is always barking (talking) and never keeps anything to him- 

Ewaa. Negative of da. 

264. Ohi 86 wo se, * Okrdmdn ani ye anan * a, gboa, abien ye nhwt. (416) 
If any one says, * A dog has four eyes ', he is lying, two are (tufts 

of) hair. 

Ohoa. Boa, to lie or to be mistaken ; also like its compound, 
6odjpa, to pretend, see No. 361. 


255, Wo n^ krdman ho ahiMa a, nisu mpa wo ani ase da. 

If you take a dog (i.e. a quarrelsome, noisy person) as a relation, 
tears will never dry in your eyes. 

AbvMM, See note on No. 37, ahtmia, 

256. Okraman anom yenodea, gnive ne kgnmu rmawa, (1768) 

Even when a dog's mouth is watering, he does not gnaw at the 
hells round his neck. 

Anom ye no de. Lit. ' in the mouth is sweet \ 
Nnawa. Da or dawa (same root prohahly as da in dade^ iron), 
a hell, often hung round dogs' and cows' necks. 

267. Okrwman fa kesua a^ d)d)g wo n! anom\ (1766) 

When a dog picks up an Qgg^ it will hreak in his mouth. 

Wo, Translate hy * in *, hut really a verh, wg^ to be. See note on 
No. 240, wq, 

268. Ohramdn na obu he se, ^ Ade kese nyera \ (1767) 

The dog has a proverh which runs, ' A big thing does not get lost '. 

Ohu he. Bu^ probably same word m hu m hu fo^ hu hem, to 
utter, to pronounce ; he = d>e, a sayings proverb, riddle. 

269. Okraman si jpata so na enyi gno na oforee a^na obi na qmdd, no so 

siihg, (1772) 
When a dog is (found) up on top of the store rack, and could not 
have climbed up himself, then some one must have lifted and 
put him there. 

Fata, A rack or ceiling, often above the dwelling room where 
odds and ends, pots, calabashes, and yams and plantains are kept. 

Oforee, gmaa, sii. Past tense, formed by lengthening of final 

260* Okraman se, ope 'mdrika-Mnu atii, na m^nne se n^ase guan atew 
ayera, (1771) 
The dog says he likes to run about without any particular reason ; 
how much faster will he run when he hears his mother-in-law's 
sheep has broken loose and is lost. 

Atu, Subjunct. after verb j9«, see note on No. 2, wope. 
Menne, Neg. of de, to mention ; lit. I do not mention, that is, 
not to speak of. . . 


261. Agyinamoa wo piafo a, ahka oye nnam kyen krdmdn, (1285) 
Had the cat only some one to help it, it would be sharper even 

than the dog. 

Agyinamoa, See note on No. 122. The idea is that the cat 
* walks by itself '. 

Fiafo, Fta as swm akyiri, swm atiko, to help, encourage, egg 
on — as a man his dog when hunting. 

Ankd. See note on No. 733. 

Nnam kym. The comparative degree is expressed by using the 
verb kyeh or sen, to surpass. Hence in pidgin English, ' he good 
pass ', * he bad pass ', &c. 

262. Agyinamoa nam Jle se ne kotoku a, anadwoboa mfa ne nsa ntom , 

When the cat walks about the house carrying his bag, the night 
animal (the mouse) does not put his hand inside. 

Fie, Deriv. perhaps j^, to come out; ofie, the place a person 
comes out from, his house. 

aS^. To carry slung over the shoulder, to hang up. 
Mfa, ntom\ See note on No. 33, mfa^ nsisi, 

263. Agyinamoa wu a, nkura yam'. (1286) 
When the cat dies, the mice rejoice. 

Yam, Lit. the belly. Here the words eye won, are probably 
understood before yam. JEye ms yam is equivalent to eye me de. 
The common phrase is me ho atg me yam, I am happy. Lit. my 
chest has fallen into my stomach. See note on No. 34^ kon do, 

264. Agyinamoa dkoane hotokura, (1284) 
The cat's slave is the mouse. 

Botohwra, The field-mouse. 
Ne, See note on ne. No. 1. 

266. Ohi nkyere agyinamoa akrwrnm. (228) 
No one teaches a cat how to steal. 

Akrgmmo = Bo nkrgn, 

266. Ohi nkyere agyinamoa apdkyi mil fw^, (228) 
No one teaches a cat how to look into a calabash. 

267. Ahoa agyinamoa nni hirihi, nanao gwg akoghare, (506) 
If the cat has nothing else, it has agility. 


Ahoghare, The original gives aJwehJ^rei perhaps some unusual 
dialectal form or perhaps an error; ahoghare is derived from ho 
and ghare, lit. lightness of body. 

268. Ahoa a^yinamoa nvm se ntwemu ye de a, ahkd gtHoe Tie m/u du 

AhUrokyiri. (507) 
If the cat really thought stretching itself (after a sleep) was a 
delightful sensation, it would go on stretching and stretching 
till it reached to Europe. 

Abilrokyiri, Europe. Lit. ' White man's far away ' or ' White 
man's back ', i. e. what lies behind where the white man comes from. 

269. Ogtuinten nwo aherekyi, (1233) 

A sheep does not give birth to a goat. 

Oguanten, Oguan (q. v. No. 1 7, guan) and ten, long ; here, long- 

270. Ji^ea oguah gyinae na neha gyinae, (2165) 
Where the sheep stands its kid stands. 

Gyinae, Lit. stood, past tense. 

271. Ohi mfa aherekyi nto guanten ho. 

No one compares a goat with a sheep. 

272. Oguan hewu, na onnyd nwui a, wgmfre no guanfunu, (1227) 
When a sheep is going to die, bat is not yet dead, it is not called 

a dead sheep. 

273. Oguan ano ka nkyens a, onnyae we. (1230) 

When a sheep's mouth touches salt, it does not stop eating it. 

274. Oguah farm mjpaw gsekan. (1228) 

A dead sheep does not choose the knife (it is to be cut up with). 

275. Oguah wuda ye gdesani umda, (1231) 

The day on which a sheep dies is also the day on which a man dies. 

276. Oguanten se, ^ Mefibe gsehg na mawo no 8o\ (1232) 

The sheep says, * I shall look on a leopard that I may give birth to 
one like it '. 

The idea is common among the Ashantis that a child is influenced 
in its mother's womb by what the mother has seen or been im- 
pressed by during pregnancy. 

The saying is taken as meaning, one should not be guided by 


appearances. In this case the ewe, seeing only the leopard's beautiful 
skin, does not inquire as to its ferocious nature. 
Na mawo. Subjunctive mood, 

277. Odwennini ye asisi a, ^ri ne kovna emfiri ne mmen. (1060) 
When a ram is brave, (its courage) comes from its heart and not 

from its horns. 

278. Aherehyi se qhedah gvxvrUen a, tuntwm mjpa mu da, (94) 
Though the goat determines to turn into a sheep, there will always 

be a patch of black somewhere. 

Mjxi, Fa, generally in its reduplicated form of jpopa, means * to 
rub out, blot out ' ; lit. ' black will never be rubbed out \ 

279. Aherehyi se, obi nnamtew nkoiou, (95) 

The goat says no one will (willingly) walk to his death. 

The Ashantis say that, whereas a cow or sheep will walk to the 
slaughtering place, the goat, which in the ordinary way will follow 
like a dog, has often to be carried. 

Nnamtew nkowu. For note on the negatives see No. 33, m/a, 

280. Aherekyi se, nea ahogyabv/m wo no, ehg na adidi tog, (97) 
The goat says that where there is much blood, there is food. 

Ahogydbv/m, Deriv. mogya or bogya, blood, and bvm, to cover, 
to spread (1). 

281. Aberekyi se, * Wgatg me na, na wgantg me \ (98) 

The goat says, * They have bought my mother, but they have not 
bought me '. 

282. Aboa aherekyi na obu ne be se, ' Ade pa na wgkata so \ (498) 
The goat has a saying which goes, * A good thing is (sure to be) 

covered over '. 

283. Naniibi mmm ani awo, nso ase ye mono, (2109) 

The outer surface of a cow's horns is hard, but underneath is soft. 

Mmm, Sing, abeh, 

284. Obi ntg nantibi nammgh, (354) 
No one buys a cow's footprint. 

Nammgh, Deriv. man, foot, and bone, hollow or hole. 

286. Enye naniihi hko na qfiri Sctraha baa Kvmase, (3612) 
It is not only cattle that come from Salaga to Coomassie. 


Sdraha, Salaga, a large Hausa and caravan centre in the 
Northern Territories of the Gold Coast, once a famous centre of 
the slave trade, to which the above saying alludes. 

Kumase, Now officially spelled Coomassie. The derivation is 
from kunif to kill, and ase, under, beneath, i.e. 'under the kill 
(tree)', from a large tree under which executions used to take 
place, when the town was the head-quarters of the Ashanti para- 
mount chief. 

286. Oj)qnkg mman kwa, (2707) 

A horse does not turn to the side without a cause. (That is, it is 
answering to the rein.) 

287. Ojpgnkg agyimi a, nea gte no so nnyimii e. (2708) 

Though the horse is a fool, it does not follow at all that the rider is 
a fool. 

E, Emphatic with negative. 

288. Opgnkg ankq gsa a, ne dua kg. (2709) 

If the horse does not go to war, its ttiil does. 

Qm. See note on No. 317, gsa, 

Ne dua kg, A horse's tail is considered as a charm to bring 
victory to an army, and is always taken on a campaign by a general 
and his captains. It is often called ohodua, ahoa dua, i. e. animal's 
tail. Horses, of course, do not live long in Ashanti owing to * fly '. 

289. Qjpgnkg wg dua, estmo wg dua, na gjpgnkg de kym sdno de kdkrd. 

• (2710) 
A horse has a tail and an elephant has a tail, but that of the horse 
is a little larger than that of the elephant. 

Dvftt, Lit. stick, hence tail. 
Estmo, See note on No. 89, eatno. 
Kakra, See note on No. 101, kdkrd. 


Mice, Rats, Animals the names op which abe not 

specially mentioned. 

290. Ahira te se nantibi a, na agyinamoa akoa ara nen, (1837) 

Even if the mouse were the size of a cow, he would be the cat's 
slave nevertheless. 

Agyinamoa. See note on No. 122, agyinanwa. 
Nen = Ne no. 

291. Akura «e, ' Nea okum me nye me yaw se nea ode me fibe fam '. (1 836) 
The mouse says, ' He who kills me does not hurt me as much as the 

one who throws me on the ground * (after I am dead). 

292. Nkura dddow bore tu a, mno, (1838) 

When a great number of mice dig a hole, it does not become deep. 

Enno. Neg. of do, 

293. Ahoa kid nyafufu a, obediy na gioqma na mho ne boh mu, (511) 
"When the rat getBfufu (pounded yam, cassava, &c.), he will eat it, 

but the pestle (used for pounding it) does not go into his hole. 

Ahoa, See note on No. 89. 

Fufu. See note on No. 14. 

Owoma, A wooden pestle used for pounding grain in a wooden 
mortar (gu>gaduru). The derivation is giug &a, i.e. the pounding 
child, or child of the mortar. 

294. Okisi kqfa adtbe na Onyd/me bg-ayeremu a, gdah atwene. (1553) 
When the rat goes to eat palm nuts and the Supreme Being flashes 

the lightning, he tlirows them away. 

Onyctm/, See note on No. 1, Onyc^m^. Lit. when the Supreme 
Being strikes (the darkness) clear. 

296. Okid ajpo adwe, (1555) 

The rat is tired of palm nuts. 

Apo, Poy to refuse, to decline. The chief food of the rat is 
supposed to be palm nuts. The saying is taken to mean, a man 
tires of what he has too much of. 

296. OkUinini anhu cidwe-bg, na gbire bg a, gihe bi, (1557) 

When Mr. Kat does not know how to crack a palm-nut kernel, but 
Mrs. Bat does, he eats some (of her's). 


297. Wokg okisi kiirom* na owe nnibea a, woibe hi, (1672) 

When you go to the rat's town and he eats palm-nut kernels, you 
eat some too. (Cf. No. 158.) 

Nnibea, Plu. of adihe, 

298. Ohi rnfi ahoa no anim mmg hama, (171) ■ 

No one begins to twist creepers into a rope in front of an animal 
(he hopes to catch). 

Mmg, Neg. of ho. 

299. Ahoa a gbeba nnim waw, (496) 

The animal that is coming (towards the hunter) knows nothing 
about the man lying in wait for it. 

Waw, To prop up, hence of the screen of palm leaves or branches 
which the hunter sets up and behind which he crouches at the 
water-hole. See note on kgtew dvxiy No. 327. 

300. Ahoa a neTw wo nhwijijifin a, wonku, (496) 

When an animal with a hairy skin sweats, it is not (so easily) 
noticed. (Cf. No. 305.) 

Fifiri, Eoot^, to come out from. 

301. Ahoa hi renka wo a, gnhwrn ne sie nkyere tvo. (500) 

When an animal is not going to bite you, it does not show its teeth 
at you. 

Onnwehf nkyere. For the negative see No. 33, m/a, nsisi, 

302. Ahoa ne nea owe vmra wq wuram*. (526) 

It is the animal that eats grass that lives (is to be found) in the 

303. Ahoa no nhintato nnyaw ne dua. (528) 

That animal does not hide and leave its tail sticking out. 

304. Ahoa no kaw nea n* ano so, (529) 

That animal bites wherever its mouth reaches to. 

306. MmoadomJa hMnafi fifiri, na nhwt na &mma yenhU, (541) 

All animals sweat, but the hair on them causes us not to notice it. 
(Cf. No. 300.) 

The saying is used in the sense that a rich or powerful man can 
bear losses or troubles better than a poor one, though both may 
equally have their worries. 


Wak, Fighting, Hunting, Guns, and Weapons. 

306. Dqm gu a, wghhym no ahm, (956) 

When an army suffers defeat a horn is not blown in its honour. 

Dgm, Deriv. perhaps do and mu. An Ashanti army is divided 
up into main body, flankers, rear and advance guard, and possibly 
both tactics and formation were modelled on our own, though this 
they themselves deny. 

The main body is called adonten (dqm ten) and also contains the 
special bodyguard of the ancestral stools which are carried to war. 
This bodyguard is known as ankghea (lit do not go anywhere 
else). The right flank is nifd (lit. right hand), the left flank is 
benkurn (left hand). A body of men are thrown outside these flanks 
again, called nawase, whose duty it is to prevent a flanking move- 
ment on the part of the enemy. The nawase do not disclose their 
position unless attacked. The advance guard are known as twafo 
(cutters), as the name implies, to clear a way through the dense 
bush. These are preceded again by the scouts, some four to six 
men called akwanserafo. The rearguard is known as Jcyidom (lit. 
behind the army). 

The whole force is under a general, gsahene (see note on gsaj 
No. 317), and under him again are the various safohene, or com- 
pany (dgmfdkuw) commanders. Each safohene has his own drums 
and horns (No. 507, bgmma). Strategy is not unknown, and the 
following story is authentic. A general on camping for the night 
lit flres all round an imaginary camp, and cutting hundreds of 
plantain leaves spread them on the ground with the white or light 
coloured side uppermost to represent sleeping men. He then 
retired with his force. The enemy attacked the supposed camp from 
all sides, and mistaking the Are of their own men for that of their 
opponents, inflicted heavy casualties on themselves. The Ashanti, 
however, rarely fight at night, darkness no doubt holding many 
terrors other than fear of the enemy. Horse's tails are considered 
a war charm (see No. 288), and the wounded are switched with 


them to make them rise. The use of stockades they say they have 
learned from Europeans. They are known as apia or apampim. 

The camp followers are called aaansafo {naansaj a camp). 

When the battle is going against an army, the chief will stand upon 
his stool (an unheard of insult on ordinary occasions), perhaps really 
with the idea of insulting the manes of his ancestors into assisting 
the hard-pressed army when prayers and entreaties have failed. 
Skulls of fallen enemies are put round war drums, the jaws on the 
horns. Only a general and company commanders take their women 
folk with them. 

Bows and arrows and shields were undoubtedly formerly the 
weapons of the Ashanti, but so many hundred years ago that all 
tradition and remembrance has been lost and forgotten. (See note 
on tafoni, No. 522.) 

307. Dgm nhui a, wonkah atqfo, (957) 

The slain are not counted before the (hostile) army has been 

Nhui, Neg. perfect tense of ^w. 

Wonkah, Translated by the passive voice. 

Atqfo, Deriv. tOy to fall ; /o, personal suffix, see note on No. 34, 
qsamah, OtofOy any one who has been killed in war or accidentally 
met his death. 

308. Dom, wqko no abooduru, na wgnko no oM-dodow, (958) 

An army is driven back by courage and not by insults, however 

Ahooduru, Deriv. abo, chest, and duruy strong. 

309. Dgm ham ano-sese-adef na dgm hkum dgmmarima, (959) 

The (victorious) army slays him who shouts out challenges and 
insults, but it spares the brave man. 

Ano-seife^ade, Lit. the mouth that keeps on saying things, i.e. 

Dgmmarima, Dgm gbarima, a man of war, a warrior. 

310. Dgm nnim dgm akyi, (960) 

An army does not know what is at the rear of an army. 

311. Oharima, wgye no dgm dno, na wgny% no fie, (50) 

A man is made in the forefront of battle and not (by remaining) 
at home. 


812. OJm aha a, na nsise aba, (1600) 

When war has come, rumours have come. 

Nsise. Deriv. se, to say, reduplicated, lit. *say, say', i.e. 

313. Oko ha a^na nsise ho kUraw. (1601) 

When war comes, it is rumours that cause the fall of the town. 

314. WokOf kg wo anim a, na wuyi dom, (1589) 

When you fight and press on to your front, then you will conquer. 

316. Woko nkrdn na mkg a, wontwme ahe nnu mu, (1590) 

When you are fighting black ants and they will not go away, you 
do not peel palm nuts and put amongst them. 

Nkrdn The large and fierce black ants that may be seen at 
times marching in an irresistible column and quickly putting to 
flight the entire household in any habitation that may lie on their 
line of march. A form of torture among the Ashantis was to peg 
a person down in the path of a drive of these insects. 

The saying above quoted means that war is war and not to be 
waged in kid gloves. 

Etikq. Note the use of the 3rd person neuter sing, for the 3rd 
person plural. 

Wontwere . . . nnu. For the negatives see note on No. 33, 
fnfay nsisi ; hhu^ neg of gu. 

316. Wok^ na wwnyi dgm a, womfd nnommilm, (1591) 

When you fight and do not win, you do not lead away captives. 

317. Osa, wgko no nkatae dodo. (2730) 
Many gun-lock covei-s go to war. 

Osa. War. Possibly the word has this meaning only by 
metonymy, the original meaning being a narrow path (cf. *war 
path '), leading through the dense ' bush ' or forest. 

Wgkg no. Note the absence of any prei)osition in Ashanti, in 
fact there are none, their place being taken by verbs. See note on 
No. 240, too; and No. 14, md, 

Nkatae, A cover of antelope, or often wart-hog skin, to slip over 
the lock of a flint gun to keep the powder dry. Nkatae, a noun 
formed from the verb kata, to cover. Every gun used by the 
Ashantis has such a cover attached to the barrel which readily slips 
round under or over the pan, as desired. (See No. 329.) 

Itf8 » 


318. Osttf logJcq no won agya mma, (2731) 

When one goes to war, it is against one's father's children (i.e. 
brothers by one father but by different mothers). 

Agya mma. Half-brothers (or sisters) by the same father but 
different mothers. Descent is matrilineal ; hence the * father's child ' 
is not reckoned a kinsman at all, and in the event of a dispute the 
children half-brothers might find themselves ranged on different 
sides. (See note on No. 37, almma,) 

E.g. abit^ua ye dgm, one's own relations, i.e. on mother's side, 
are an army. 

319. Ohi ntv/ru yarefo nkS 'ad. (377) 

No one carries a sick man on his back when going to war. 

Ntv/ru, . . . ri]c6. See note on No. 33, m/a, nsisi. 

320. Ohdfo d, w6kodi nd yaw na ottw apae aha ne nsa y% na wo de, woso 

brode bedew reho he ? (549) 
The hunter to whom you serve as attendant has been wouhded in 
the hand by the bursting of his gun, so, as for you, where are 
you setting off to with the bundle of plantains 1 

W6kodi . . . yaw, Di ohdfb yaw, means to accompany a hunter 
to the bush, as a kind of attendant, carrying food and water and 
assisting him to cut up and carry home anything shot. 

Brgde, Plantain, not indigenous. Deriv. horo ode, lit. European 

Bedew. A rough basket plaited out of palm leaves. 

321. Obdfo ahoa a wafom no hiara nye ketewa da, (550) 

No animal that a hunter has ever missed is small. (Cf. No. 323.) 

Wafom. Fom, to make a mistake, generally used with so, hence 
to miss with gun, arrow, &c. 

Another common saying to express exaggeration is as follows : 
Ewne me tow owansan keae bi tuo me fom no so, To-day I fired at 
a very big bush-buck but missed it. 

322. Obgmgfo, a woaJewm j)ete (a wonn ine nam), woasee wo aiud/uru, 

Hunter, who have killed a vulture (the flesh of which cannot be 
eaten), you have wasted your powder. 

Atvdv/ru, See note on No. 13. 


823. Obgmofo dboa a qko nd oso, (601) 

To the hunter the animal that gets off is (always) the big one. (Cf< 
No. 321, above.) 

324. Obgmofo din bata sonnam ho, (602) 

The hunter's name clings to the elephant's meat. 

Bata. To lie close against, hence as here, to be mentioned in 
connexion witli. 

Sonnam, E sono nam, (See No. 89, es&no.) 

325. Obgmgfo fi nmram ba na okura mmere a, wommisa ahayo mu 

asem, (603) 
When the hunter comes from the bush carrying mushrooms, he is 
not asked for news of his hunting. 

Wuram, See note on No. 92. 

326. Obgmgfo kg vmram md osu tg afibe no, ma ntummoa keka ne ho, 

ma awgw ade no, m>d gfiverem* awg no, ne nhtnana ye due na 
mede memae, (604) 
When a hunter goes to the bush and is beaten by the rain, and 
bitten by flies, and suffers from the cold, and is pricked by 
thorns, all these hardships are included, when I tell him 
I am sorry for him. 

Ntummoa, Deriv. tv/m, black ; and mmoa^ insects. 

327. Obrnn^gfo kgteiv dua na aboa amm<i a, gaan ba ofie, (605) 

When the hunter crouches behind a tree, but the game for which 
he is lying in wait does not come, he returns home. 

Kgtew dua. Lit. to fix a stick in the ground, hence used of 
cover taken by a hunter when waiting for game, perhaps at a water- 
hole, where he may have made an artificial screen of branches. 
(Cf. wawy No. 299.) 

328« Obgm^gfo waim aboa yarefo, (606) 

The hunter does not spare (lit. know) the sick animal. 

820. Osu tg na ^mrwfo bekum aboa a, ejine katae, (3062) 

If the rain falls and the hunter kills an animal, that is thanks to 
the skin cover of his gun lock. 
Kaiae, See note on No. 317, nkatae, 

330. « Gye dkyekyere kgm>d agya,* nso ye ahayg ? (1262) 

Here take the tortoise and go and give it to father,' would you 
also call that hunting ? 

G 2 


831. Enye obi n^ bgmofo na ekgo wuram ', (3589) 

No one weut with tlie hunter to the bush (i.e. there is no one to 
contradict you, for you were alone when it happened). 

332. Ottu) nya otiafo a, na odi abantnaem, (3388) 

It is (only) when a gun has a man to cock it, that it performs war- 
like deeds. (Cf. No. 339.) 

Otiafo, Tia atuOy to pull back the striker of a flint-lock gan, to 

Abaninsetn, Ahanin, a male, and asem, 

383. Ottwpai kd gbgmofo a, wommisa nea odi gbofo nam, (3389) 

When the gun bursts and wounds the hunter, the man who happens 
to eat venison is not blamed for the accident. (Lit. is not 
asked about it.) 

884. Otuo mjpae AhUrokyiri mmM onipa wo Abibinm\ (3390) 
A gun does not burst in Europe and wound a man in Africa. 

AbWrokyiri, See note ou No. 268. 

Mpae . • . mmM,, For the negative see No. 33, mfa^ nsisi. 

836. Wo atfio sHa a, na wo <uein sua. (3391) 

When your guns are few, your words are few. 

336. Ottu> td Man a,naen^ poma se jye, (3392) 

When the lock of a gun is out of order, it (the gun) and a stick are 
just alike. 

Otuo td. The lock of a flint-lock gun ; hUan, lit. springs back, 
that is, will not catch or cock. 

337. OttM rUow ahoa hi nnyae nkghyehye ahoa hi were mu, (3394) 

A gun-(shot) does not wound one animal and cause pain to another 
animal. (Lit. the skin of another.) 

338. OtiLO yera ntfii mu nd ekqfi adgnteh mu a, na enkgg habi e. (3395) 
When a gun (a soldier) is missing from the right flank of the battle 

and appears in the forefront of the fight, it did not go amiss. 

Ntfa . . . adontefh. See note on No. 306, dom, 

339. Twerebo nti na otuo di ahaninsem, (3422) 

Thanks to the flint-stone the gun performs warlike deeds. (Cf. 
No. 332.) 

Tiberebo, Tthere, to strike, and oho, a stone. 


Childhood, Youth and Inexpebienge, Age and Expebienge. 

340. Oha a gbei/e ytye, wony^ no kete-pa so nko, (6) 

The child which is to turn out any good is not reared entirely 
on (even) a beautiful mat. 

Oba. Deriv. possibly 6a, to come, to come forth, something 
produced, also used of the young of animals. 

Note ghd, is a girl, the long a being the feminine and diminutive 
Buffix wa. 

Wony^, Yen, to rear, nurture, or bring up. Also used of 
rearing animals and chickens. 

Kete, A mat woven of grass. 

841. Oba 86 gse, nan so owo abusua, (7) 

A child (may be) like his father, but he belongs to the mother's 
side from which he takes his name. 

Abtisua. Referring to the matrilineal descent. See note on 
No 37, abimia. For gse see note on No 37, nu 

342. Oba nsu a, logmmd no nufu ? (8) 

Is it only when a child cries that he is given the breaht ? 

Nufu, See note on No 151, nu/u, 

848. Wo ba ne to gu wo stre so a, wode haha na eyi^ na toomfd gsekan 
ntwa. (10) 
When your child's excrement falls on your lap, you wipe it off 
with dry plantain fibres, but you do not take a knife and cut 
(the place) off. 

844. Wo ha saw asa-bone a, se no se, ' Wo asaw nye fe \ na nse no se, 
' Okra, iete gu mu \ (1 1) 
When your child dances badly, tell him, saying, ' Your dancing is 
not good ', and do not say to him, * (Little) soul, just dance as 
you want to '. 

Okra. See note on No 9, nkrabea. Here used as term of 

Tete. Deriv. tetew, to tear up, to spoil. 


845. Wo ha sisi vx> kora ha a, eny^y nanso wo kora ha hid wo ha a, 

enye. (12) 
When your own child cheats your fellow wife's child, that is not 
right, and when your fellow wife's child cheats your own 
child, that is not right either. 

Kora. "When a man has two or more wives each is called the 
' kora ' of the other; korc^ means 'jealous '. An exactly similar idiom 
is found in Hausa where one wife is called by another kishia, 

846. Oba-hone nnim kasakyere. (13) 

A bad child does not take advice. 

Nnim. Lit. does not know. 

847. Nea ahofra pe qtotg. (2124) 
What a child wants he buys. 

(Said of a foolish person who must have everything he sees and 

348. Ahofra ho nwaw na qmmg akye yere, (657) 

A child breaks a snail, but he does not break a tortoise. (Cf. No. 

Nwaw. See note on No 165. 
Qmmg. Neg. of ho. 
Akyekyere. Also called avmru. 

349. Osekan-fua na egye neho ahofra nsam\ (2846) 

It is the knife-blade without the handle that frees itself from the 
hands of a child (by cutting him). 

350. Ahofra nsanC ade nye hye-nd. (573) 

It is not difficult to fill a child's hand. 

Hye-n&. See note on No. 157, nye-nci. 

851. Woye ahofra a, nserew aJcwatia. (3564) 

When you are a child, do not laugh at a short man. 

Akwatia. Akoa-tia, short fellow. 

352. Ahofra nte ne n& ne n agya aeem a, eye mmusu { . . . odi aduan a 
nkyene nnim'). (581) 
When a child does not hear the words of its father and mother, 
there is misfortune in that ( ... he partakes of food in which 
is no salt). 


Na, See note on No. 37, nu 
^agya. See note on No. 37, m. 
Nkyene. See note on No. 577. 
Nnim\ Neg. of too, 

368. Ahofra hu ne nsa hohoro ci, na o ne rtvpanyinfo didi. (564) 

When a child knows how to wash his hands thoroughly, he and 
(his) elders (can) paiiake of food together. 

HchoTO, Reduplication of horo. Note the distinction in mean- 
ing between the following words, hoho, to wash the hands or face, 
horo to wash things, pots, clothes, &c., guare, to bathe the whole 
body, hence used for * to swim '. 

354. Abofra iwafufu a, oiwa nea d)€kg n*anom\ (583) 

When a child cuts off a piece (of boiled) yam, he cuts off what will 
go into his mouth, 

Fufu, See note on No. 14. 

366. Abofra kd na enko opanyin naa^ na n' aduan de eko panyin anom, 
A child's ring does not go on an elder's finger, but as for his (the 
child's) food it goes into the elder's mouth. 

Nsa, Names of the fingers are, kokorobeti, thumb; akyere- 
kyerekwan, first finger, lit. point out the way ; nsateahenf, 
middle finger, lit. king of the fingers ; ahene akytri, third finger, lit. 
finger after the king ; kokobeto, little finger, lit. is the hen going 
to lay? 

366. Obi nsoma ahofra nfwe n'ani akyi. (343) 

No one sends a child on an errand and looks to see if he is pleased 
or not. 

Nsoma , . . nfvbe. For note on the negatives see No. 33. 

N'ani akyi. Lit. behind his eyes, used for 'eyebrows'. Five 
vHani akyi^ means * to look to see if a person is pleased or othei^wise 
by his expression '. 

367. Wokq kHrow bi mu, na dtbom a mmofra to no na mpanyimfo na 

eto gyaw toon, (1577) 
When you go into some village, the songs which the children sing, 
the old folk once sang and left behind to them (that is, 
tradition is handed down). 


868. Abofra su a, wqmmg no duawb, (578) 
When a child cries, he is not bound to a log. 

Wqmmq. Neg. of ho, 

869. Ahofra ye nea tognye a, dhu nea wohliu, (587) 

When a child does what is not (usually) done, he perceives what is 
not (usually) perceived. (Cf. 360 below.) 

Wonye . . . wonhu. Lit. they do (or, one does) not do ... do 
not perceive, (impersonal verbs here translated by the passive). 

860. Ahofra ye nea opanyin ye a, oku nea gpanyin ku, (586) 

When a child does what a grown up person does, he sees what a 
grown up person sees. (Meaning, he is punished as a grown 
person is punished.) Cf. 359 above. 

861. Ahofra hodjpa wu a, wqhodjpa sii nd. (558) 

When a child pretends to be dying, (the best thing to do) is to 
pretend to bury him. 

Bodpa,- See note on No. 254, ghoa, 

862. Ahofra a ghq asu na ghg ahina, (554) 

The child who goes for water is the one who breaks the pot. 

Na, Here emphatic, the one, or, it is the, &c. (See No. 1, na.) 

363. Ahofra hg mmusu akron a, g/a mu anum, (555) 

Out of nine mischievous tricks a child thinks to play on others, he 
suffers for five of them himself. 

Akron . . , anum. For notes on numbers see No. 772, adu- 

Q64. Ahofra kgda gya na gjpere ko a, ne niama hyew, (559) 

When a child goes to lie by the fiie and is fidgety, his cloth catches 

366. Ahofra nfwe gkwanaeh ase kwa. (563) 

A child does not look into the soup pot for nothing (he expects to 
be given some). 

Okwansen, Deriv. osen, a cooking pot, and nktoan, soup. 

366. Ahofra ketewa hi te fi kese hiwi a, ma no due, na wahu amanne 
When a small child lives (alone) in a great big house, pity him, for 
he has seen misfortune (that is, he has responsibility beyond 
his years). 


Te, To sit, to live, (<ewa, to sit, i. e. be seated). *The translation 
of this word literally by the native interpreter has given rise to one 
of the commonest of the hideous pidgin English expressions which 
are so common in West Africa, ' he live for ', the verb ' live ' being 
used in the place of the English verb * to be '. Most pidgin English 
can be traced to some idiom peculiar to the vernacular, which has 
been followed by the native interpreter when putting the words 
into English. 

Fi. See note on No. 262, /e. 

Bim* = Bi mu. 

Amanne = Oman ade. 

867. Ahofra kotow 2)anyin nky&a, (668) 
The child squats beside the elder. 

Kotow, To squat, also used of ' to kneel down \ The Ashantis 
do not (now) seem to squat down on their thighs like so many 
African tribes (the Mananja and Angoni, for instance, who in- 
variably adopt this position when resting, eating, &c.) This may 
be a result of European influence and the almost universal use of 
stools. Whether their remoter ancestors adopted a squatting posi- 
tion could no doubt be proved by an examination of an ancient 
male skeleton {tihici)^ (the female, for obvious reasons, even among 
tribes who habitually squat, never adopting this position). Pro- 
fessor Thomson, of Oxford, has shown that this squatting position 
in course of time has an effect on the external portion of the upper 
tibial articular surface. 

Panyin, See note on No. 1. 

368. Ahofra ano ye dm a, ode hy'm ahehy na gmfa nkym wqaduru, (571) 
Even when a child has a strong mouth, he blows a horn with it and 

not a mortar. (Cf. No. 348.) 

Ano ye den. Lit. a strong mouth, i.e. quarrelsome, loud voiced. 
(See No. 238.) 

Omfa nhym. Note the double negative. (See note on No. 
33, nsid.) 

Wqadimi. See note on No. 14, qwq. The grain mortar with its 
wide mouth is likened to some huge musical instrument. 

369. Ahofra se qkoforo dunsin a md, gmforOy na gkgso anim asan aba, 

(574 and 403) 
When a child says he is going to climb the stump of a tree, let 


him climb (it), for when he has gone up it (a little way) he will 
turn back again. 

Dunain. Dtia, a tree, and sin, a piece, a fragment of anything. 
For etymology (according to Ashantis) see No. 57, odum. 

Anim, See note on No. 80, aniwa, 

Asan aba. The literal translation is ... he goes up it that he 
may turn back ; asan and aha are subjunctive mood. 

870. Ahofi^a se obeso gya mu, mdt onso nm, wa eliye no a ohedan akyene, 
When a child says he will catch hold of fire, let him catch hold of 
it, for when it bums him he will (soon) throw it away. 

371. Abofra se gbeye mpanyirme a, vnJa onye, na ebia obenya opanytn a, 
obi nnim, (576) 
When a child says he wants to act as if he were already a chief, let 
him do so ; as to whether he will ever become one, that no one 

M2)anyimne, Mjpanyin-ade, 

872. Abofra sika te se anyafikoma gya, wotwa so a, na adwm, (577) 

A child's gold dust is like a firebrand of the anyankoma tree ; when 
it is broken up it soon burns out. 

Sika, See note on No. 591. 

873. Abofra sua adibini'di a, enye gsebg nJwma na ode sua, (579) 
When a child is learning his trade as a leather worker, he does not 

practise on a leopard's skin. (Cf. No. 124.) 

Osebg nkoma. Leopard skins being rare in comparison with 
sheep and goats' skins will not be used for experimental work. 

874. Mmofra hu kore a osu atg aboro no a, wose gye ojpete, (591) 
When children see an eagle draggled by the rain, they say it is 

a vulture. 

• Osu, See note on No. 26, nsu. 

375. Mmofra n'kotu a, wganhu tu; mpanyihnkotua^wotiatia so, (592) 
When children go to pluck them (the mpempema mushroom), they 
do not do so skilfully ; when grown-ups go to do so, they 
trample on them. 

The mushrooms to which this saying refers are known as the 
mjpempemay i.e. thousands and thousands'. They are very small 


and grow close together. The saying refers to anything that is 
almost impossible to do, 

876. Obi ns(mha abofra osoro na onhuann' ase antweri, (341) 

No one sends a child up aloft and then knocks away the ladder 
from beneath him. 

Nsoma, . . , onhuan. See note on No 33, mfa, nsisi, 
AntweH. Deiiv. tweriy to lean against. 

377. Obi nsoma abofira na ommefa no so ahufuw, (^^2) 

No one sends a child on (a difficult) errand and gets angry (if he 
does not perform it well). 

No 80. Lit. on, about. 

Abufuw, Lit. g6o, chest, and fuw^ to swell. See No. 34, kqh do. 

378. Qpanyinf&re ne nvma a, na ne mma suro no. (2602) 

When an elder (a parent) is strict with his children, then his 
children fear him. 
Fere. See note on No. 155, mf&re. 

379. Ojpanyin se nd wany^ d>, rmnofra nauro no, (2613) 

When the grown-up threatens to punish, (lit. says) but does not 
carry out his threat (lit. but does not act), the children do not 
fear him. 

380. Ojyanyin kye a, edwo, (2606) v 
When an elder portions out the dish, it becomes cool. (A wise / 

(old) man knows how to settle disputes). 

381. Opanyin nyin vm ne batwew. (2611) 

An elder grows at the elbow (i. e. becomes rich). 

Nyin wo ne batwew, * To grow at the elbow ' is a phrase meaning 
' to have amassed riches, to have put aside money \ 

382. Obi ntutu anomct nkokyere gjyanyin. (382) 

No one plucks a bird and goes and shows it to an elder (to inquire 
its name). Cf. No. 719. 

383. 02)anyin di nsem nhind ahyi a, gman bg. (2597) 

If an elder were to follow up every (little) offence (in order to 
inflict punishment), a people (nation) would (soon) go to ruin. 

Oman. See note on No. 474. 

384. Opanyin nni abansosem ahyi. (2598) 
An elder gives no heed to idle rumours. 


Nni, Neg. of di, lit. does not follow. 
Ahanaosem, Lit. ' words over the wall '. 

385. Opanf/in a wanyin ne nea vmkg Amnte aha, ne nea wako AhUrokyiri 

aha, cUorofo a ewo oman mu Tien. (2596) 
The elder who has grown very old is the one (who says) he has 
gone to Aslianti and returned; (who declares) he has been 
to Europe and back, a liar among the people is he. 

Asante. This is the correct spelling. The h which has been 
introduced comes from the pronunciation (wrong) of the word by the 
Ga or Accra people, and became adopted from them by Europeans. 
YThis proverb is evidently one from the Coast regions, where 
Ashanti was looked on as some unknown land from which no man 
returned alive, and as inaccessible as Europe. The saying means 
'an old man's tale',) 

AhUrokyiri. See" note on No. 268. 

Atorofo. See note on No. 604, otdrofo. 

Nen = Ne no. 

386. Qjmnyin didi adibone a, oyi n'asanka. (2600) 

If an elder eats greedily, (he finds) he has to remove his own dish. 

Adibone, Adi, to eat, and hone, bad. 
Naaanka, A flat dish made of baked clay. 

387. Ojpanyin due, * Mante, mcmie', (2601) 

An elder evades responsibility by saying, * I have not heard, 
I have not heard *. 

Mante. The saying is also sometimes taken to mean, an * elder 
should turn a deaf ear to a good deal of the tittle-tattle he hears \ 
Mante is also the name of a charm supposed to act as the name 

388. Qjmnyin hegye me nsairC ahonnna a, onnyi asase a mete so, (2603) 
Though an elder may take from my hand the stool I sit on, he 

cannot take from me the ground I sit on. 

Begye. Lit. come and take. 

Akwihua, A stool, often showing in its carving a high degree 
of aesthetic art. The stool is the symbol of chieftainship. The 
paramount chief of all the Ashantis sat on the so-called ' golden 
stool ', the stool of next importance being the ' silver stool ' of 
the Omanhene of Mampon. Each chief has his own stool, and 


when he dies his stool is blackened all oyer, a concoction of sooty 
spiders' webs and white of eggs being used. The stool is then 
set in the ' stool house ', {fJcohnua JU), along with other stools of 
departed chiefs. Every twenty days {adai) a sheep is killed and 
the blood smeared on the stools, each being taken in torn, while 
at the same time the chief or okyeame (q.v. No. 481, note on 
gm&mjydmC) mentions the name and deeds of its depai'ted owner. 
The meat is shared among the people and there is singing and ' 
dancing. The above all takes place oii ' Wednesday adai \ On 
' Sunday adai * all the stools are taken out from the ' stool house ' 
and carried in procession to the burial ground ; the chief at present 
occupying the stool leading, carrying a gun, as a mark of servitude 
to the departed spirits. As the procession goes along the crowds 
follow, and any one who wishes may make requests to any of the 
stools (which are now supposed to be tenanted^ for the time being, 
by the spirits of their departed owners). A deafening clamour 
results as the crowds pour out their petitions. The burial ground 
reached, only the ' Queen mother ', stool carriers and okyeame and 
hanmo/Oy undertaker, are allowed to enter. Here another sheep is 
killed. On the return to the ' stool house ' the chief distributes 
presents, drink, and food. 

The bells (one at each end) on a stool are for tinkling to 
summon the spirit from the asamariy spirit world. The stool 
carriers, on the occasions mentioned above, may be seen swaying 
from side to side, ' the spirits are pushing them *. 

An Ashanti, when rising from his stool, will generally tilt it up ^ 
against the wall or lay it on its side lest a departed spirit wander- , f 

ing round should sit on it, when the next one to sit down ' would 
contract pains in his waist '. 

The cowries seen fastened under many stools are * earnest- 
pennies ' representing various transactions, which are then, by the 
taking and giving of such a pledge, considered as definitely clinched 

88 9. Opanyin me nsdno. (2607) 

An elder can satisfy his hunger with his intestines. (That is, he 
has other resources to fall back on when needs be, when hunger 
(used metaphorically for trouble) overtakes him.) 
Ns^no. Note the words nsono^ intestines ; emru), an elephant ; 
and sanOj to be different. 



890. Opanyin n^ mmofira hu nantew a, wgsoa ne hgtg, (2608) 

When the elder and the children know how to adapt their steps to 
one another's, they (the children) can-y his bag. 

Hit. To see, to perceive how a thing is done or its appearance, 
hence to know. Ftbe means to look at a thing, regard it, that one 
may perceive {hu) its nature or application. 

391. Ojpanyin amm as&m ye gkd-nd. (2609) 

It is not an easy matter to speak face to face with an elder. 

Okd-nd, See note on No. 157, nye-na, 

392. QjHimyih cmo sen svman. (2610) 

(The words from) the mouth of an old man are better than any 

Svman. See note on No. 17, gbosom. 

393. Opanyin tirim na wdhdn akvma, (2613) 

It is on the elder*s head that the axe-head is knocked off (the 

W6hdh, Translated by the passive. Hon is used of pulling or 
knocking out something embedded in something else, as a stick out 
of the ground, a hoe from its handle, &c., probably an onomato- 
poetic word. 

AJcvma, An axe, also called abomiay deriv. qh6 dmi, stone 
stick (?), stone axe. There are abundant evidences of a long 
forgotten stone age in Ashanti. The present writer made a large 
collection of over a hundred celts or neolithic stone axes (now in 
the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford), see a paper on ' A Collection 
of Ancient Stone Implements from Ejuba, Ashanti ', by Prof. 
H. Balfour in Vol. XII, No. xlv, Oct. 1912, of the Jaumcd of 
the African Society, There is no recollection or tradition of a stone 
age among these natives, and the celts are known by them under 
the name of gnydmi akumd, i. e. God's axes ; the etymology of the 
word abomiay if correct, gbo, stone, and mui {dua), a stick, which is 
the native word for axe, being the only clue that these celts wer6 
used by the remote ancestors of the Ashantis and not, as some 
persons are inclined to believe, by a different race and civilization 
once inhabiting this region. The wearing away of an axe on 
a stone is also mentioned among the drum messages, see note on 
twa. No. 507. 


) The interpretation given to the above saying is, that an elder, or 
man of weight and experience, can bear the brunt of troubles 
which may assail the youthful and inexperienced members of his 
family. ' 

894. Opanyin to asa a, na ewg rmnofra de mu. (2617) 

When the old man s bottom is flat, its fatness has gone to the chil- 

To asd. Lit. has come to an end, decreased, diminished ; hence, 
has got thin. 

Stoo . . . mu. Lit. it is in. 

896. Opanyin nto ho-hyew nto abofra n8am\ (2618) 

An elder does not roast a hot stone and place it in the hand of 
a child. 

Nto . . . nto. For note on the negatives see No. 33, nsisi. 
Note how the vowel sound alters the meaning of a word, to (nasal), 
to roast ; to, close o sound, to place. 

896. Ojfanyin ntra qfie na (isadiui mfgw, (2619) 

The elder does not sit in the house and (allow) the loom to get wet. 

Asadua, Aaatoa, cotton, and dtLa, a stick, i. e. loom. 

397. Ojpanyih wg nkwa a, ormi mfensd, (2620). 

Even when an old man is strong and hearty, he will not live for 

Ormi, Neg. of di, 

Mfensd. Mfe ahtesd, lit. three years, but used for an indefinite 
period of time (see note on No. 767). 

398. Mpanytmfo na dm he se, * Gya me nan *, na wonse se, * Gya me ti ', 

Experienced men have a saying, * Leave my legs alone ', but you will 
not hear them saying, * Leave my head alone '. 

JShu be. See note on No. 258. 

The following is the explanation given by the Ashantis of this 
saying. Long ago, when wild animals, lions, hyenas, and leopards, 
were even more numerous than now, a man, when he lay down to 
sleep, always took care that his feet and not his head were nearest 
to the doorway. Thus, if a wild animal got into the hut, it would 
most probably seize the man's legs, who would then shout * Leave 


my legs alone ' ; whereas had his head heen nearest the door, and 
been seized hold of, he would have been unable to shout * Leave my 
head alone '. The proverb means, a man of experience will not 
put himself in a position from which he cannot extricate himself. 

899. M^nyimfo se, ' Maye se wo jyen \ 2623) 

The elder (lit. elders) says, ' I have done as you (ai*e doing now) 
once upon a time (or, I was as you are) '• 

400. Se mjpanyimfo 2)e wo atoto awe a, vnmhuruw ntra ogya. (2624) 

If the old people want to roast and eat you, you do not jump over 
a fire. 

AtolZ awe. Note the construction in the subordinate noun clause 
after the verb jpe, (See note on No. 2, wo2)e.) 

401. Mpanyimfo ye wo guafinuafiy na se wuguan a, akyin no wgserew 

wo. (2625) 
When the grown-ups (frighten you to) make you run off, and you 
do so, afterwards they laugh at you. 

Guahnuan, Reduplication of gvxin. 

402. AhvaJcord U ho ansdna wqwoo panyin. (1877) 

An old man was in the world before a chief was born. 

Te, Lit. lived, see note on No. 366. 
Wgwoo, Pafet tense, note lengthening of final vowel. 
Panyih, Here in the sense of one in authority, see note 
on No. L 

408. Aherewa a onni se no n'atadwe gu ne kotokiim*, (100) 

The old wpman with no teeth has * tiger * nuts in her bag. (She 
may have some reason unknown to you for keeping them.) 

SS, The names for the teeth are : gbgmqfo se (lit. hunter's teeth), 
canine teeth ; nyepi, molars ; adonten sS (lit. main body teeth, from 
military term), incisor teeth. Human teeth are valued as stimans. 

404. Aherewa jwe akokg, na akoho fwe aherewa. (101) 

The old woman looks after (her) hens and the hens look after the 
old woman (by laying eggs and hatching out chickens for her). 

Akokg. See note on No. 1 99. 

' 406. Aherewa kg asu a, Mba, na ne ni&m na y^epi. (102) 

When an old woman goes to fetch water (we know) she will come 


back, but it is how long she will be about it that we want (to 

Ne nt&m. Here ntmh would seem really a noun instead of an 
adverb ; lit. her quickness (in returning). 
\ The saying means that if old persons do things that younger 
people do, they must not expect any consideration on account of 
their age^J (Of. following.) 

406, Ahereuoa mm ode a, tnnye ne ban, (103) 

If an old woman (says) she knows (every )thing, let her put up her 
own fence. (Cf. No. 405 above.) 

Ade, See note on No. 85, me dea. 
6nnye. Imperative of gye. 

407. * Maky^, makyS/ ham aherewa, (1992) 

* Good morning, good morning/ (eventually) kills an old woman. 

Maky^, Me mdt wo akye,'l give you morning. The old woman, 
who sitting by the house all day, and having nothing to do but 
return salutations, is said to be killed eventually by thenJ."] 

1698 H 


Chiefs, Fbee Men and the Nobility, Slaves, The Family, 
Nationality, Pabents and Relations, Women and Wives, 

Marbiaoe, Bibth. 

408. Ohsm-mane nni habi^ na osafohene-hone na gwg hahi, (1300) 
There is no such thing anywhere as ' a bad king ', though ' a bad 

vassal chief may be found. 

Ohem-mone = Ohene-hone. 

Nni. Neg. of wo, 

Osafohene, A sub- (or, vassal) chief, also in a military sense, 
a captain of a war company. Oman-hene, i.e. chief of a nation, 
king, is the highest title. Ohene is somewhat vaguely applied 
either to the supreme chief or king, or even to some quite small 
chief of a town or village, though this latter is more correctly 
gdekurOy lit. holder of the village. 

409. Ohene a obekum wo mmae a, na vjokan ahene dodow a woasom ? 

When the chief who will kill you has not yet come (on the stool), 
can you count how many chiefs you have served under 1 

410. Ohene bi here so woh/a, na obi bere so wody^e, (1303) 

In one chief's reign skins are treated by having the hairs singed 
off, in that of another the skins are spread in the sun. (Times 
and manners change.) 

Bere. Lit. time. 

Wodyere. Lit. they have spread (them) out. Translated by the 

411. Ohene bedi wo kasa a, efi mamfo, (1304) 

When a chief is going to compel you to do something, he does so 
by the authority of the people. 

Bedi . . . kasa. Di kasa, to compel a person to pay for some 
wrong he has done. 

Mamfo. For note on suffix^ see No. 78, kontromft. Mamfo = 


412. Ohene hehum wo a, ennim ahamatwh, (1305) 

When a chief is going to kill you, it is useless consulting the lots. 

Ennim, Neg. of v)o mu. 

AhamcUtbd, Lit. draw or pull the strings, see note on No. 55, 

413. Ohene ne wo kd a, na okum wo, (1307) 

When a chief and you are on (too) intimate terms, (some day) he 
will kill you. (Cf. 421.) 

Kd. Me ne no kd=he and 1 are friends. 

414. Ohene anim na wonkd, na n'akyi de, wose, (1308) 

One does not speak out one's mind in the presence of a chief, but 
behind his back one does. 

Anim. See note on No. 80, aniwa, 
N^ahyi, See note on No. 89, dkyi, 

416. Ohene nufa doeo a, amansan na enum. (1309) 

When a chief has plenty of milk, then all people drink of him. 

Nufu, Lit. breasts, but by metonymy milk. 
Enwm, Note this idiomatic use of the 3rd person sing, neuter 
pronoun for the 3rd person plural masc. or fem. 

416. Ohene nyd ahotrafo jpa a, na ne here so dUbo* (1310) 

When a king has good councillors, then his reign is peaceful. 

Ahotrafo, Deriy. ho and <^a, lit. one who sits beside. 
Ne here so. Lit. in his time. 
Libo. Lit. cool. 

417* Ohene nnyd wo a, na vmse, * n^ me kct\ (1311) 

As long as a chief leaves you alone, you say, ' He and I are good 
friends '. 

Nnyd wo. Lit. does not get (hold of) you. 

418. Ohene aad te se 'sono aso. (1312) 

The ears of a chief are as the ears of the elephant (i.e. he hears all 
that is going on). 

*Sono. See note on No. 89, es&no, 

419. Ohene aso te se sgne ; emu a&wah boro ajpem, (1313) 

The ears of a chief are like a strainer; there are more than 
a thousand ways to them. 

Sohe, An openwork basket for straining palm oil. 

H 2 


420. Ohene ntam te se hayere amoa, obi ntg mu mfa neho tdtrotg mfi adz 

da. (1314) * " 

A chief's oath is like the hole a yam is planted in, no one falls into 
it and gets oat again unhurt. 

Ntam, See note on No. 496, tvokd, 
Bayire, One of the many species of yam (ode), 
Ntg, mfa, . . . m/i. Note the negative throughout, see note on 
No. 33, 971^, nstd, 

421. Ohene tamfo ne nea g ne noji m/mofraase, (1315) 

The enemy of a chief is he who has grown up with him from child- 
hood. (Of. No. 413.) 

Tamfo. Tan, to hate. 
Mmofraase, Deriv. mmofra, ase, 

422. Qhene te se odwm, onni anvm, nni akyiri, (1317) 

A chief is like an od^Mn tree, he has no front and no back. 

Odum. See note on No. 57, odum. 

423. Qhene ha ntutu 'mirika nkgfwe tiri, (1321) 

A chief's child does not run to look at a head (that has been cut 

The heads of persons executed are brought to the chiefs house. 

Ntvtu . . . nkgfwe. Note the two negatives, see note on 
No. 33, Tisisi. 

424. Ahenkwd di adwene na wadihen aa&n. (1322) 
A chief's servant eats fish and gets ideas. 

There is a play on the words adwene, a fish, and dihen, to think, 
the noun from which is adwene, thought. (Cf. No. 446.) 
Ahenkwa = Ohene-akoa, 

426. Ahenkwa na gma ohene ho ye hu. (1324) 

It is the chief's servant that causes the pei*son of the chief to excite 

426. Oaafohene Tisua na wako. (2756) 

A war captain does not take the oath before going to fight. (Lit. 
in order that he may, &c.) 

Oaafohene. See note on No. 306, dgm. 
Nsua, Sua, to take an oath before going to fight. 
The safohene has already taken the oath and is not required to 
do so again before going to war. The oath is taken as follows: 


The man stands before the chief, sword in hand, tl^e left hand being 
placed on the heart, pointing his sword at the chief, he swears * Me 
kd rUam kese se meko mama me vmra ne me ease nea m>ede msye obi 
akoa nOf inM m^Ug. Me noma koraho na wanko a, m^e me ti me 
sane ho, Se nea me kde yi manye a, ms ka ntam kese \ 

Translation — 'I swear the gi-eat oath that I will fight for my 
king and my country rather than become any one's slave, I will fight 
and fall. If I fire a bullet and it will not pass (in front), I myself 
and my own head will go forward. If I do not do these things 
I swear, I take the great oath.' 

427. Ade a ghene pe na logye mJd no, (783) 
Whatever a chief wishes is done for him. 

Ade, See note on No. 85, me dea. 

Ma. Really a verb, here translated by the preposition *for', 
see note on No. 240, log. 

428. Nrdpa nhtna pe ghene aye^ na {wgavyd ?) mgannyd na wose, mpo 

aJienni ye yaw. (2432) 
All men would like to be chief(8), but when they cannot get what 
they want they declare that even to rule as a chief has its 
Wgannyd, The original gives this verb in the positive, but this 
is probably an error. 

Ahenni, Deriv. ghene di, to rule as chief. 

429. Ade hta ghene nana a, okita ttLO, na gnaod aketi, (798) 

When a chief's grandson is poor, he holds a gun but he does not 
carry a mat. 

Nana, More often nana, gba is understood, see 37, m. 

AkHi, To carry one's own sleeping-mat is considered veiy de- 

430. Ade hta gdehye a, ehta no kctkrd. (797) 

When a free man lacks something, it is something very big he lacks. 

Odehye, Plu. adeyhye, a free man, as opposed to a slave {gdgnko) ; 
also used in the sense of one of good family, a nobleman. 

Kctkrd. See note on No. 101, kctkra, 

431. Odehye bg dam a, tvgfre no asabow, (834) 

When a man of noble family is mad, people say he is only the worse 
for wine. 
Odehye, See note above, No. 430. 


Wqfre. Lit. they say. 
Asabow. Deriv. how nad. 

432. Odehye din nyera da, (835) 

A free man's name is never lost. 

483. Odehye^ wodi no ajpata, na wonni no sono, (836) 

Nobility should he home as one eats fish (humbly) and not as one 
partakes of elephant flesh (proudly, and boasting about it). 

Apatd. Fish, dried, is a common food all over Ashanti. Elephant's 
meat is naturally rather a luxury, and people will give much even 
for a small piece just to be able to say they have eaten it. 

434. Odehye nhyehye, na sika na ehyehye. (838) 

Fame of being noble born does not spread abroad, it is the fame of 
riches that spreads. 

Sika. See note on No. 691. 

435. Odehye anko a, akoa guah, (839) 

When the free man does not fight, the slave runs away. 

436. Odehye mu nni aJbofra, (840) 
Among royalty no one is a child. 

437. Odehye^ wgnnoa wonni, na sika ne asem. (841) 

An ancient name cannot be cooked and eaten ; after all, money is the 

Wonni, Neg. of di. 

438. Odehye, wmrvpae, (842) 

A man of royal blood does not need to have his name proclaimed. 

Wgmpae. Fae, used of the proclamations of the gsen, herald. 

439. Odehye nsgre, wosi no mfensd. (843) 

The offering on the grave of one of the royal house is placed there 
for many years. 

Nsqre. A burial grove. Deriv. probably n, not, and sore, to rise 
up ; but also by metonymy, the offering placed on the grave. 

Mfensa, Lit. three years, but used for indefinite number ; see 
note on No. 767. 

This proverb is quoted by a person who is reprimanded or re- 
proached for not having performed some action, and is equivalent 
to answering, * Oh, I have plenty of time yet in which to do that, 
there is no huriy *. 


440. Odehye te ho a, akoa nni ade. (844) 

AVhen the free man is there, the slave does not take command. 

Nni ade, Di ade, to take possession, inherit, take command. 
'Kiis saying is not strictly accurate as there have been cases where 
the legitimate heirs have been passed over and the stool given to 
^ a slave. See proverb following. 

441. Odehye tmi a, akoa di ade, (845) 

When a free man dies, a slave succeeds. (See No. 440, note.) 

442. Odeliye nye abofra na wqahq ne din ahg owu din, (846) 

One of royal rank is not a common fellow that he should have his 
name coupled with the name of Death. 

Abofra, Child, boy or girl, but also used in the sense of servant, 

Owu, Death personified for description, see note on No. 16, 
owu. Note, among the Ashantis it is bad etiquette, if not actually 
criminal, to mention the word ' death ' in connexion with the name 
of a chief. There are many euphemisms to express ' he is dead ' ; 
e.g. wakafikyene gu, lit. he has cast away salt; oho asaman, he has 
gone to the spirit world ; oka habi, he remains elsewhei-e. Waye 
OnyamMpon de, he has become the property of Onyankopon. 

443. Akoa mpaw wura, (1625) 

A slave does not choose (his) master. 

A koa, A servant, slave, but the latter is better gdgnko, Akoa is also 
used in the sense of * that fellow ' {akoa no), fSlaves were probably 
quite well treated in Ashanti and had not much to complain of. 
It is true that they were liable to be sacrificed, or perhaps buried 
with their master on his death, but such a fate was also possible 
for free men. Slaves who proved themselves able could, and often 
did, succeed to their masters' property. Slaves, apart from those 
born such, might be put in three classes : (1) those who became 
such by having been bought or captured in war ; (2) those pledged 
or pawned by their relatives or themselves to liquidate debts, or 
as security for a debt ; (3) those who voluntarily placed themselves 
under a master for protection. To fully understand the proverbs 
which follow it is necessary to remember that so-called * slavery ' 
in Africa, as practised by the Africans themseHves, was seldom or 
never that terrible thing with which later and exotic associations 
have invested the word. 

* An African Slave.' The words have gained much of their 


simBter meaning, to our ear, owing to the transplantation of 
a more or less necessary and not wholly to he pitied individual, 
from his indigenous surroundings (where his status in, and ad- 
vantage to, the social system were assured and fully recognized), 
to a * civilized' and a 'Christian' community, which had long 
forgotten all that thousands of years of experience in dealing with 
this class had taught his rude African master. The demand for 
slaves in the Christian markets of the world^ and all the horrors 
that this traffic hrought to Africa and to her people are apt to 
hlind one to the fact that this * open sore ' was much of our own 
making. lOne is prevented from seeing that here, in its original 
home, * slavery ' (another word is almost needed to express it) did 
and (in a mild form, and shorn of its more glaring abuses) does 
much to hold together the communistic savage community till 
such; time as education and advancement favour greater inde- 
pendence and individualism. 

444. Akoa nhye nehlo ntu «a. (1615) 

A slave does not make up his own mind about going to war. 

Nhye ,. . . ntu. For use of negatives see No. 33, m/5i, nsisi* 
Sa, See note on No. 317, o«a. 

446. Akoa nim wura, (1622) 
A slave knows (his) master. 

446. Akoa di guah a, ne hZ guah no, (1612) 
When a slave eats a sheep, he is in trouble. 

Guan. Oguan, a sheep, see note on No. 17, guan. Besides 
perhaps being a play on the words guan, sheep, and guahy trouble 
(cf. No. 424), the proverb means that the slave who eats a sheep, 
that is, sacrifices it to a fetish, must be in great trouble, or have 
committed some crime unknown to his master, or is making some 
promissory ofiering to his fetish, in any of which circumstances his 
master would want to know all about it. 

447. Akoa ampgw a, na efiri wira, (1626) 

When a slave is not well behaved, the cause can be traced to (his) 

Am^w, The literal meaning oijpqw (often reduplicated ^H>2X)t&) 
is to clean, polish, rub up, hence here perhaps used figumtively, 
polished, polite, in which sense the word is often used. 

'^ira = Wura ; tbira is in the Akan dialect. 



448. Akoa nni awu na wonkum otoura, (1619) 

When a slave does Dot commit murder, his master is not killed. 

The master was held ahsolutely responsible for every act of the 
slave, who was considered as having not only a body which was not 
his own, but also a mind. Hence any act of a slave was considered 
as an act of his master. 

449. Akoa nim aom a, of a ne ti ode di. (1620) 

When a slave knows how to serve (his master well), he is permitted 
to take his own earnings. 

Ne ti ode. Lit. his head thing, i. e. the price paid for a person 
or thing. ; Cf. tiri nsd, the wine placed before the parents of a girl 
as a legal symbol that the woman has been given in marriage. / 

460. Akoa a onim aom di ne vmra ode. (1621) 

A slave who knows how to serve succeeds to his master's property. 
(Cf. No. 441.) 

451. Akoa nya nehd a, gfre neko Sonanu (1623) 

When a slave becomes a rich (and free) man, he calls himself one 
of the Asond family (a noble family). 

Sonant. For notes on Ashanti totem and family names, see 
note on No. 37, ahiLma, 

462. Akoadifo. (1611) 

A slave is (as a matter of course) guilty. 

453 . Akoa nkyere rmannua, (1617) 

A slave does not point out where good sticks for building are to be 

Nnannua. Lit. house sticks, nnan^ plu. of qdah^ a house. The 
usual house is a framework of sticks plastered with mud. The 
slave on seeing suitable sticks should go and cut them, and not 
merely come and report, when he will only be asked why he has 
not brought them. 

464. A koa nni m2)gw kwa. (1618) 

A slave does not eat the second yam crop without good reason. 

Nni, Neg. of di, 

Mpow, The second crop of yams ; the first is called Trnnotq^ 
kroma. This second crop is used exclusively for planting out the 
following season, and for a slave to eat them would mean he was 
contemplating flight before then. 



466. Akoa nyansa wg ne wura tirim, (1624) 
A slave's wisdom is in his master's head. 

466. Akoa sure asukg na womd qkg a, ogvah, (1627) 

When a slave has ceased to go for water and is (again) made to go, 
he runs away. 

Sare asuko, Aauko^ the verbal noun from Jcq, to go, and asu, 
water. Sare^ to give up doing something one has been in the habit 
of doing. Here a slave, who had become so far a privileged person 
that he was no longer ' the hewer of wood and drawer of water ', 
on being ordered to become so again, would consider himself so 
badly treated that he would try and escape and find a new master. 
The saying means that a privilege once granted is difficult to 

457. Akoa te ae kyekyirey wode nsu kdkra gu no so a, na ahono, (1628) 
A slave is like unto corn ground into flour ; when a little water is 

sprinkled on it, it becomes soft. (A slave is easily influenced 
by kind treatment.) 

Kyekyire, Indian com roasted and ground. (The original, 
No. 1 628 in * Tshi Proverbs ', has kyekyere for kyekyire in error.) 

458. Akoa te se twereho ; enni otuo ano a, mye 'ye, (1629) 

A slave is like the flint on the striker of the gun which, if it were 
wanting, would make the gun useless. (He is a necessary 
member of the community.) 

Twerebo, See No. 339. 
Enni, Neg. of too, 

450. Wo nkoa suro too anim asem a, wonni mm mmd wo. (1630) 

If your slaves fear (to speak) before your face, they will not gain 
victories for you. 

Wonni. Neg. of di. Di mm or nkmiim, to win a fight. 
J/ma. See note on No. 727 and No. 14. 

400. Nnqnkgfo hanufwe nanttui a, gkgm kum no, (976) 

When two slaves look after (your) cow, hunger kills it. 

Nngnkgfo. Nngnkg, the Ashanti name for the country to the 
north of Salaga, now the * Northern Territory ' of the Gold Coast, 
Fo^ a personal suffix, see note on No. 78, kontromft. As many 
of the slaves used to come from here, the word Nnmikqfo, sing. 


gdqnkoniy came to be synonymous with akoa, slave, and used entirely 
in that sense. 

461. * AMa me nafwe ma me/ nti na obi yee dkoa. (1335) 

* I am in want, so look after me/ that is why some men became 
slaves (lit. one became a slave). 

Yee, Past tense, formed by lengthening of final vowel. 
Akoa. See note on No. 443, akoa. This comes under class 3. 

462. Ovmra ne akoa ntam* nni, * twe ma merUwe*. (3501) 

Between master and slave there is no * pull and let me pull ' (no 
striving for the mastery). 

463. Wo toura tan wo a, na ofre wo akoa dehye, (3503) 

When your master hates you, then he calls you a free-born slave. 

Akoa dehye, A slave who was originally free-born, but through 
debt or some other misfortune lost his original status ; see note on 
No. 443, aJcoa, The slave mentioned here comes under class 2. 

464. Ohi nto akoa na gmmehye no so. (352) 

No one buys a slave to act as a restraint on himself. 

Nto . . . ommshye. Note the double negative, see note on 
No. 33, nsisi. Mme, neg. of auxiliary verb b^a, 
Hye , , , 80, to press on ; hence, to oppress. 

465. Wunni wura a, ohi kyere wo, ton, di. (921) 

When you have no master, some one catches you and sells you for 
what you will fetch. 

Wunni. Neg. of tog. 

Ton, di. Lit. sell, eat, i.e. sell and use the proceeds. 

466. Wofsre too afdna a, toudi nnuanfin. (1115) 

When you fear to reprimand your slave girl, you eat stale food. 

Wofere. See note on No. 155, mfere. 

Nnuanfin. Nnuan, aduah, and/m, not/t, bad. 

This proverb might almost seem to be spoken by some mistress 
in Mayfair, worried by the servant problem and fearful lest her 
cook takes offence and gives notice. 

467. Akoa ghantanni, wode no sie funu. (1614) 

A proud slave is taken and buried with the corpse (of his master). 

It was the custom in Ashanti in the old days, when a chief or 
any one of importance died, to kill slaves, wives, and attendants^ to 


accompany their master to the spirit world, asamah (see No. 35, 
gmman). As soon as the chief breathed his last, and before the 
news of his death was publicly announced, two slaves, generally 
girls, were taken to where the corpse was laid out for washing and 
killed, either by strangulation or by having their necks broken 
across a stick ; this was known as yi agiuire^ * to remove from the 
bathing (place) '. After the body had been washed and decked in 
all its finest cloths, another victim was killed at the entrance to 
the house by having his throat cut (first having the s&pqw knife 
driven through his tongue and cheeks to prevent him swearing any 
oath), the blood being allowed to fall on the drums. Chiefs were 
often buried sitting on the shoulders of a man who thus standing 
was entombed alive. Before burying or killing the different 
victims they were each assigned their duties in the next world 
which they had to perform for their dead master. 

468. Ohi nhu hi ktuaberan nhuruw nsL (187) 

No one sees a strong slave belonging to another man and jumps 
for joy about it. 

Nhu, nhuruw, rm. For this idiom see note on No. 33, mfa, 

KwcJ)€ran = Akoa-dberan, 

469. Obi akoa di jp^eguah na twiha asUdsd to no a, oyi kaw sUd ma 

When some one's slave who is worth a peregtuin of gold dust (j£8) 
is sold to you for an amJtdsa^s worth (about £6), he is pretty 
sure to go and incur some debt for a »iid's worth (about £2) 
that you will have to pay. 

Pireguan, asitdsd, aUa, See note on No. 591, naema, for notes 
on Ashanti weights.. 

470. Ahuma hhvna ye ahusua, na yefwefwe mmet&md so de. (683) 

All family names are family names (and good enough at that), but 
we search well between the thorns of the oil palm for the 
good nuts nevertheless. 

Abusua, A family or clan name traced through the female line. 
See note on No. 37, abusua. 

MmeCemJd, Deriv. hetem, a cluster, and mma, plu. of o6a, child, 
lit. cluster of children, i.e. bunch of palm nuts. 


471. Ahusua te ae nfmren, egugu ahutD-aJcuw, (684) 
Family names are like flowers, they blossom in clusters. 

472. Alyusua ye dgm, na too nd oha ne wo nua. (686) 

The family is an army, and your own mother's child is your real 
kinsman (brother or sister). 

See note on c^mma, No. 37. 
Nd. See note on No. 37, nu 
Nua, See note on No. 37, nt. 

478. Ahvbsua dua, wontwd. (686) 
The family tree is not cut. 

474. iV^^a Oman 6e X^ 5eret^ Tia Oman ^ M ^. (2199) 

What one people talk and laugh about, another people talk and cry 

Oman, A nation, a people. Used, however, also in the sense 

of a town, and the people of that town. This probably is its 

original meaning, the various towns or villages possibly under 

independent chiefs gradually coming under a central authority, the 


476. Oman rebd)o a, efi afi mu, (1996) 

When a nation is about to come to ruin, the cause begins in the 

homes (of its people). 

OJi, See note on No. 262,^. 

476. Oman bg, na menne ahohow. (1998) 

A nation is (can be) destroyed, how much more one home (lit. 
a gate). 

Memii, Neg. of de, 

Ahdbow, See note on No. 495. 

477. Oman Akuapem, wohonyd ode a, woaCy ' Ohumfo ! \ mo woannyd a, 

woae ' Okd/rahiri / ' (1999) 
The Akuapem people say, when you get wealthy, 'Mischievous 
fellow ! ', and when you have nothing, they say ' Unlucky one ! '. 
Okd/rabiri, Lit. black soul. See note on No. 147. 

478. Om>ah hwm wo a, na ghene kum wo, (2000) 

When (the united) people (want to) kill you, then the chief kills 


479. Oman te se adesoa, wonhu mu ode dakoro, (2001) 

A people are like unto a load (containing many things), you cannot 
perceive all the contents in a single day. 

Adeaoa, Lit. ade, a thing, and soa, to carry, something carried, 
a load. 

Mu ode. Almost a compound word, lit. * the in-it things ', i.e. 

480. Oman twa wo samd a, toomjpopa. (2002) 

AVhen it is the unanimous wish of a people that you dress your 
hair in a certain way, you are compelled to do so (lit. you do 
not rub it out). 

Soma, Various patterns cut on the hair of the head. 

481. Oman rehebg a, gmampdm na 6kUra pmna, (1997) 

When a nation is about to come to ruin, then the salamander holds 

the staff. 

OmS^mjpdmt, The salamander. The name in Ashanti means 
literally * mend nation ' (j)am gman), i.e. unite, join together in har- 
mony and peace. The following is the Ashanti story of how it 
came to get this name. 

^ The salamander was formerly known as the Bgainah (i.e. break-up 
nations). This name he was given by the eaono^ elephant, who is 
supposed, according to this story, to have given all the animals their 
names. The salamander protested against being given this name, 
but in vain, so he went off and adopted the following plan in 
order to get it altered. He went alternately to the chiefs of the 
Nhran (AccfrcC) and Ahuapem nations, and told each in turn that 
the other was about to attack him, and these nations were on the 
point of going to war. It transpired, however, that the salamander 
was the real cause of all the trouble, and he was caught and asked 
to give an explanation of his false reports. He freely acknow- 
ledged what he had done, but pleaded justification in his name, 
Boaman (destroy nations). His excuse was accepted, but his name 
was altered from Boamah to his present one, MSmpdm (unite 

The salamander is said by the natives to be deaf; in the saying 
above he is represented as the okyeame. The staff held by a chief's 
okyecme, that is, spokesman, is generally bound round with the skin 
of the salamander (as a kind of ' sympathetic ' magic^ no doubt)! 


The word gkyeame is universally spoken of and rendered as 
'linguist' by the Europeans in this colony. It has of course 
nothing to do with linguist (i.e. one skilled in languages). The 
gkyeame is a court official who acts as the mouthpiece of the chief; 
etiquette neither allowing a chief to speak directly to, or be spoken 
to directly by, his subjects. The idea of linguist or interpreter is 
entirely foreign to the word. The gkye&me need not, and probably 
does not, know any language but his own, and if the word is to be 
rendered in English at all, it should be by the word, spokesman. 

482. * Agya, gyae na mmka^ wokyL (1238) 

* Father, stop, and let me tell (you what you ought to do) ', it is not 
permitted to speak so. 

Agya, See note on No. 37, m. 

Menkdi, Imperative. 

Wokyi. See notes on No. 89, aky% and No. 132, wokyi, 


483. Agya vnma nyd a, mepe ; ma mma nya a, mejpe ipajpa/pa. (1239) 

When (my) father's children get (anything), I like that ; when (my) 
mother's children get (anything), I like that even better. 

Agya irnna. Children of your own father but by another 
mother, and therefore, as descent is traced through the female line, 
not considered as your onua (i.e. brother or sister by yofwr own 
mother). See note on terms of relationship. No. 37, ahima, 

Endi, mma. Children of one's own mother. See note above. 

Papdjpa. The word jpa means good, well ; here lit. good, good^ 
good, the word being repeated to make a superlative or express 
emphasis. It is also used in the sense of ' real ', ' genuine ', see 
No. 44 and No. 135. 

484. ' Magya dea, mJemfa^ Tne nd dea mhnfa \ na ebere atbt, (1243) 

' It is my father's, so let me take it ; it is my mother's, so let me take 
it ', that brings (a child) to stealing. 

Dea. Not to be confused with dea = nea, he who. Here de, 
with the enclitic a, probably giving emphasis, is the possessive. 
See note on No. 85, me dea, 

486. Wo agya akoa twa dtui a, timae, 'Bye merew\ (1244) 

When your father's slave cuts down a tree, you say, ' It is soft wood 
(easy to cut) *. 


486. Wo naha ne Kobuohi a, ankd toobeae Be h/ene kese fata no ana f 

Even if your mother's son is * Kchudbi \ would you tell him that 
the big drum was a fit thing for him to carry t 

Kchudbi. The prefix koy before proper nouns, is a contraction 
for odgnko, a slave (q. v. No. 460, nnqfikofo), and is added as a kind 
of nickname to the name of a person of slave or humble origin, and 
also to those of children whose brothers or sisters have all died. 
Kobucbi, that is, slave boy Buobi may be in duty bound to carry 
the big drum, but being your own real brother you would not 
want to taunt him with the fact. 

See also note on No. 138. TJxis and many other of the proverbs 
tend to show how strong is the idea of relationship on the mother's 
side alone. 

487. Wo na cba ne vx) nua, (2061) 

Your mother's child is your kinsman (brother or sister). 

See note on No. 37, ahvsua, and above. 

488. Wo nd di hta a, wunnyae no nkofa obi nye na. (2063) 

When your mother is poor, you do not leave her and go and make 
some one else your mother. (Cf No. 492.) 

NSL, See note on No. 37, m. 

Wunnyae, nkgfa. Note the negatives, see No. 33, mfa, neisi. 


489. Wo na ankd gua a, na uoomdna too nani kdra, (2064) 

When your own mother does not go to market, then your step- 
mother is sent. 

Wond nS kora, a step-mother. It must, of course, be remem- 
bered that the Ashantis are polygamous, so that a child, besides its 
own mother, may have anything from one to several hundreds of 
step-mothers. See note on No. 345, kora. 

490. Wo nd wu na wob&ye ayi a, didi ihie ansa, na nkgtg piti na wo am 

nkowu mpanyimfo anim. (2067) 
When your mother has died and you are about to celebrate the 
funeral custom, finish eating first, lest you go and faint and 
shame yourself before the elders. 

Didi icie. See note on tmUwa . . . tbie, No. 137. 
Ani nkowu. See note on No. 33, mfa, neisi. 


401. Wo nd awu a, wo abuma am, (2068) 

When your mother dies, you have no kindred left. 
See note on No. 37, ahuma. 

492. Wo nd nye a^ na wo rid ara nen, (2069) 

Even if your mother is not a good woman, she is your mother 
nevertheless. (Cf. No. 488.) 

iVcw=we wo. 

493. Wudi wo ctgya akyi a, wrMida ne narUew, (898) 

When you follow behind your father, you learn to walk like him. 

494. Wunni nd na woko obi fi agoro a, na otu ne mma fo a, wode tu 

wohobi, (912) 
When you have no mother and you go to some one's house to play, 
and she (the mother) admonishes her children, you profit by 
some of that advice yourself. 

Agoro, A verbal noun, (for) playing. 

496. AgorU a ereba wo nd ne wo agya ab6b6w dno n6, wompe ntem 
' nkofwe. (1211) 
The dance which is coming to your mother's and your father's 
door, you do not go off in haste to look at elsewhere. 

Abobbw, The entrance to the square or open courtyard round 
which the houses of an Ashanti family are built. 

Womjpe . . . nkofwe. Note the double negative ; see note on 
No. 33, mfaj nsisi, 

490. Wokd wo agya a, wokd VH) nd hi, (1489) 

When you swear the oath of your father, you should also swear 
that of your mother. 

Wokd. Ntam is understood. 

Several kinds of oaths are to be recognized. First, there is the 
common form of path taken at ordeals, where a man swears by his 
particular ' fetish ' that he is speaking the truth, and calls on it to 
punish him if he is in the wrong. This form of oath is too well 
known to require a detailed description. 

The second form is less well known. Like the first it is also 
a form of legal procedure. 

Me kd ntam, 'I swear the oath of so-and-so'. These are the 
words said by an Ashanti man or woman who has a dispute with 
another. Let us suppose two people are quarrelling, words run 

169t I 


high, perhaps blows follow, suddenly one of the persons fighting 
says to the other, * I swear the oath of (whoever it may be) that 
I am in the right '. There and then the matter ends for the time 
being, for by saying these words the quarrel has been removed 
from the sphere of a private dispute, with a possibility of a private 
settlement, to become a purely public affair to be heard and settled 
in the court of the chief whose oath has been sworn. Students 
of Boman Private Law will notice the curious resemblance in 
this procedure to the leois actio sagramektum, which was 
also a method of removing a dispute from the sphere of private 
settlement and securing a trial in jvdicio. Now the meaning 
of this oath is as follows. The person who used the oath men- 
tioned some particular day on which local tradition hits ascribed 
some dire calamity to have happened to the family of the tribal 
chief. Each local chief may Iiave such a black day. When 
a person mentions such a day,, which subject is ordinarily taboo, 
it behoves the head of the family, whose unlucky day has been 
thus recalled, to investigate the wliole matter under dispute, and, 
if necessary, punish the person who has wrongly used the pbwer 
or dread of this event to prove his case. It has been seen that 
one of the litigants * swears the oath ', it is now the duty of the 
other party to answer it {60 ntam so), lit. * beat on the oath ', that 
is, also swear the same oath that he is in the right. Should the 
second party fail to do so, the case is simply given against him, no 
evidence or witnesses being required, the mere fact that he refuses 
to respond to the oath proving him to be in the wrong. Should, 
however, the oath be duly answered, then the case will be heard in 
open court. Heavy fees attach to these oaths, each party putting 
down his * oath fee '. The fee of the party who wins the case will 
be returned to him, that of the other party is forfeited to the chief. 
It is thought that, did a chief whose oath has been taken refuse to 
investigate the case, a similar calamity would befall his family. 
The swearing of an oath constitutes a form of appeal to a higher 
court. Not being satisfied with the judgement of one court, a person 
can appeal to a higher by swearing the oath of the next most 
impoi'tant chief, the oath in this case being sworn against the 
okyeame or spokesman of the chief who gave judgement and not 
igaiBst the original party to the suit. In this manner appeals can 
be carried right up to the court of the paramount chief by the 
swearing of the ' great oath ' {jvtam kese). This is the equivalent 


of saying, ^ Memeneda Koromante\ i.e. * Koromante Saturday*. 
KoromarUe is a place on the Fantee coast where Osai Panyin of 
Coomassie was defeated and slain by the Fan tees. This calamity 
was considered so terrible that even the name came to be proscribed 
and became known as simply TUam kese, the great oath/ 

Other important oaths are Akantamansu, from the name of 
a battle near Dodowa, where Osai Yao of Coomassie and many 
other chiefs were defeated and slain. 

Wukuda, Wednesday's oath, is another. 

An interesting modem example is Ahanakyi, lit. after or behind 
the castle, castle being used as the personification of the English 
Government; this oath referring to the last rising in 1900 in 

Any man who was about to be executed was usually pierced 
through both cheeks by a skewer-like knife {sepgw)^ which prevented 
him from * swearing the king's oath ', which would have neces- 
sitated the delay of an investigation and trial before he could be 

The thicd^Jonn of oath is perhaps more of the nature of a curse. 
By it a person invokes the death of the king, the words used being 
the simple formula, * Obosom nku/m oh&ne* * May a fetish kill the 
king '. So terrible a crime is this considered that in describing 
it the custom is to say, ' he blessed (or, sprinkled) the sacred 
edwira* on the king. /When the writer was endeavouring to 
ascertain the exact curse used, he had great difficulty in getting 
his native informant to repeat it, and finally only got him to 
do so accompanied by loud cracking of his (the native's) fingers 
round the ears. 

Now any one who thus * blessed ' the king was without exception 
and without possibility of pardon, killed. But a curious custom is 
in vogue. The curser is permitted to name (within reasonable 
limits) the day and manner of his death, and during this interval 
is granted absolute licence. He can demand any man's wife, money, 
and goods, to use and do as he likes with till the day of his death. . 
' In this custom we have one of the most powerful checks on the 
personal despotism of kings and chiefs; for on one occasion on 
which a man was driven by the treatment he had received from 
the chief or king to * bless ' him, with the consequent upsetting of 
the social regime resulting from the licence granted, the person 
on whom the exasperated populace sought vengeance was the ruler 

I 2 


who had by his despotism driven his distracted victim to prefer 
death to life. 

A somewhat similar idea runs through the well-known custom 
of committing suicide, but before doing so ascribing the cause to 
some particular person who is thereby compelled to commit suicide 
himself, or again, the custom of swearing an oath on a person that 
he must kill you, when the person on whom the oath is sworn is 
in the predicament of having to choose between violating the oath 
or committing what will be considered and punished as murder. 

497. Obi mfi hea akyi ntu ne tarn, (170) 

No one can pull the loin-cloth off a woman without her knowledge. 

Mfi . . . akyi. Lit. to come behind one's back and do a thing, 
i.e. to do without one's knowledge. 

498. Ohea ho aguare na wamma ntem a, na osiesie neho, (23) 

When a woman goes to bathe and is a long time in returning, then 
(you can be sure) she is decking herself out. 

Aguare, A verbal noun. See note on No. 353, hohoro. 

499. Obea tenteh so ahe a, ghuxim di, (25) 

When a tall girl carries palm nuts, the toucan eats (them). 

Obea tenteh. The Ashanti women are shorter in stature than the 
men, and the expression ' tall girl ' here implies a woman who does 
things unbefitting her sex, or who is shameless. 

Ohwam di. The saying, amoam bedi wo vwme,^ the toucans will 
eat your palm nuts ', is a common expression among the Ashantis, 
meaning * some trouble will befall you '. 

600. Mmea nhtnd ye bdko, (27) 
All women are alike. 

601. Mm^ n'nyae ahka aguare, na ahohow ho boh, (28) 

Let women cease to bathe with limes, for even the {ahohow) red 
ant has an offensive smell. 

Ahohow: A small red ant that lives in the branches of trees 
and which is found in lime trees. They have a nasty smell. The 
native women are very fond of using limes to rub their bodies 
with, perhaps to get rid of the smell that seems inherent in the 
black man and woman however clean they may be. The saying 
means, anything inherent in one cannot be got rid of by artificial 




602. Mmea pe nea sika wo. (29) 

Where the gold dust is, that is where the women like to be. 

Sika, See note on No. 591. 

60a, Mmea se, * Wo ho yefe ' a, ent ha, (30) 

When the women say (to you) * You are a handsome fellow \ that 
means you are going to run into debt. 

Ka. Ashanti. The T^i dialect has haw^ see No. 54. 

604. Oha Iw yefea,efi ne hunu, (19) 

When a woman is beautiful, it is from her husband she gets her 

Meaning perhaps that he has bought her the ornaments or fine 
clothes that make her look beautiful. 

505. Qbd na onim kunu. (20) 

It is the woman who knows her husband. 

^a. Here emphatic, see note on No. 1. 

506. Qbd nyinsm na vxinwo hd a, qwo banin, (21) 

When a woman conceives and does not give birth to a girl, she 
gives birth to a boy. 

607* Obd Hva bgmmd a, etweri barima dan mu, (22) 

Even when a woman makes (lit. cuts) a drum, it leans against the 
man's house. 

Tiba, To cut ; here refers to the tree from which the wooden 
portion of the drum has been made. 

Women have nothing to do with drums in Ashanti, either the 
carrying or beating. 

The following brief notes on drumming are only intended to 
draw attention to this interesting subject. The writer hopes to 
discuss tlie matter more fully in some other work. 
^ A great deal is heard in Africa about the wonderful way in 
which news can be passed on over great distances in an incredibly 
short space of time. It has been reported that the news of 
the fall of Khartum was known among the natives of Sierra Leone 
the same day, and other equally wonderful instances are quoted to 
show that the native has some extraordinary rapid means of com- 
municating important events. It must, however, be remembered 
that most of the instances that one hears quoted are incapable of 


verification, and would, moreover, probably be found to have been 
mucl) exaggerated. Having said this much, however, it must be 
admitted that these natives have a means of intercommunication 
which often inspires wonder and curioBity on the part of Europeans. 
One of such means of communication is by drumming. 

This idea the European will readily grasp, and being familiar 
with various means of signalling ^ will suppose that some such 
a method might be adapted to drums; but among the Ashantis the 
drum is not used as a means of signalling in the sense that we 
would infer, that is by rapping out words by means of a prearranged 
code, but (to the native mind) is used to sound or speak the actual 

That is, we have drum-talking as distinct from drum-signalling, 
a iymjpanophonettc as opposed to a tym2>ano8eifnantie means of 
communication. Tympanophony, or drum-talking, is an attempt to 
imitate by means of two drums (a * male ' and a * female ') set in 
different keys the exact sound or words of the human voice. 

(Such an idea does not appear nearly so far-fetched to the native 
mind as it might to a European, accustomed as the former is to 
ascribe even the sounds made by birds and some animals to attempts 
at human speech.) 

We have all perhaps experienced the sensation that bells were 
ringing out words, and the classical example of * Punch brothers 
punch ' will occur to many, and children have a game where one 
plays a tattoo on another's back, beating harder and harder till the 
one who is acting the part of drum guesses the tune played. 

These childish examples illustrate exactly what the Ashanti 
drummer strives to do with his drums. 

Now the question naturally arises as to the limitations of this 
means of communication. Can the drum be made to say anything, 
or are the messages drummed restricted to certain preconceived 
and prearranged words or rather sentences 1 As far as the writer 
bas been able to discover, the drummers' vocabulary is more or less 
restricted to the latter class of messages, but this point requires 
further investigation. 

These drummers are trained from childhood, and must not only be 
experts in drumming, but also have learned the traditions and 
genealogies of all the kings, and the folk-lore of the tribe as con- 
tained in the proverbs, for it would seem that most of the sentences 
drummed come under these two headings. 


The subject is one of abEorbing interest, but only tbe biief^st 
description can here be given. 

The classes of messages sent come under several heads. 

1. The names and deeds of each king or chief who has occupied 
the tribal stool as far back as tradition has any memory of. Drum- 
ming thus serves as an important way of perpetuating the tribal 

2. Messages addressed to the various materials from which the 
drums are made, the particular tree from which cut, the elephant 
from whose ear the tense membrane is made, the wood from which 
the pegs are made, the creeper used to tie down the skin. An 
appeal is also always made to a mythical divine drummer for 
permission to drum. This class of messages always precedes any 

3. Many of the best-known proverbs are drummed, and among 
the commonest to be thus perpetuated are those in which OnyA- 
nk5pon (a Supreme Being) figures. This the writer considers of 
considerable interest and importanceas proving that the native 
name and conception of a High God is not derived firom the 
Europeans. (See note on Onyctme, No. 1 .) \ 

4. Alarms, especially fire. ^ 

5. War messages generally insulting, and not, as one might 
suppose, messages giving instructions as to movements of troops or 
orders to war captains. The Ashantis account for such messages 
not being, as it were, in ' the code book ' by saying that any such 
orders would have to be delivered secretly, and not * shouted out ' 
for the enemy to hear. 

A few examples taken from the hundreds of messages that an 
expert drummer can send will now be given. 

The words and sentences are rapped out on two dmms placed 
side by side. The drummer squats beside them with a drumstick 
in each hand. The tones of the drums are pitched in different keys. 
The message is rapped out with extraordinary rapidity and skill, 
the endeavour beii^ to imitate the intonation usually given to the 
particular sentence to be drummed, each syllable of a word being 
represented by a beat on one or the other or both of the drums. 

The following are drum messages beaten at the Wednesday and 
Sunday adai held in honour of the departed chiefs, on which 
occasion the ancestral stools are carried forth to the burial ground, 
(See note on No. 388, akonntta,) 


First, as is always the case when the drums are brought out, the 
drummer propitiates or condoles with each separate part of which 
the composite drum is formed. (It is worthy of note that many 
words in these messages are now archaic and the meaning is not 
known even to the drummers.) 

O-ha-yi'fOy g-dg-^nan-ko-ma, kye-re-ma se, (Hre-ae-re^ wOy ba-hi, 

10 wizard, the sacred drummer says he craves of you a place to 

The meaning is that the drummer asks permission from the 
wizard (see note on No. 56, gbayifo) to drum. A drummer when 
he makes a mistake in the message he is sending, attributes the 
error to the interference of an evil spirit. Such an error on the 
part of a drummer is punished by the fine of a sheep. (It will be 
noted that this form of drumming is almost entirely ceremonial or 

Twe-^e-bo-a, Ko-di-a, Bi-rim-jpon^ o-do-man-ko-'nuiy h/e-re-ma, se, 
o-kg^f ba-hi, a, toa-ma ne ho m-me-re-so, fir-im-fon^ da-mir^i-foy 
da-mir-i-fay da-mir-i-faf 

O cedar tree (from which the drum is made), the mighty one, 
fbe divine drummer says he had gone elsewhere for a while, but 
that now he has returned, pity, pity, pity. 

Here the wooden portion of the drum is condoled with. 

O'bu-a, yen-kye-re-duy g-do-man-ko-ma, kye-re-ma, <c, g-kg-g, ba- 
bi, a, wa-ma ne hg m-me-re-soji-rim'pgn, da-^V't-fa, da-mir-i-fa^ 
da-mir-i-fa / 

O chua tree (from which the pegs are cut that hold down the 
skin), the divine drummer says he had gone elsewhere for a while, 
but now he has returned, pity, pity, pity. 

Bo-fu-fnUy am-jHi-se-kyiy o-do-w^an-ko-may kye-re-ma 8e, , , , (as 

O bofumu apaaekyi (the tree from which the bark is stripped to 
make the string with which the skin is fastened down to the pegs), 
the divine drummer says ... (as before). 

A-fe-ma, dunst-nty ne, a-sa-re n-kan-ta, g-do-man-ko^ma kye-re- 
ma, se , . , (as before). 

O afava tree (from which the drumsticks are cut), the divine 
drummer says ... (as before). 


E'SO-no, o-bu, a-ku-ma, o-do-man-ko-ma, kye-re-ma, ae, , , . (as 

O elephant (lit. the great one), breaker of the axe, the divine 
drummer says ... (as before). 

Here the elephant, from whose ear the membrane of the drum is 
made, is propitiated. This concludes the propitiation of the drum, 
and this prelude being over the real business on hand will begin, 
namely, the mentioning of each chiefs name and his deeds ; there 
are only given one or two examples out of the many that exist. 

A'8i'a'ma''To'kvrA'8a-re, g'ttoe-a-du-am-pgn, g-nyh-mtf o-dq- 
man-ko-ma, kye-re-ma, se, g-kg-g^ ha-hi, a, wa-ma, ne-hOy m-me-re, sOy 
g-bg-g, de-en, g-hg-g g-sen, na, g-bg-g, g-kye-re-ma, na g-bg-g, g-bra-fo 

Asiama-Toku-Asare (the first king who sat on the stool of Mam- 
pon), Supreme Being, God (see note on Onyctm^, No. 1), the 
divine drummer says he had gone elsewhere, but has now returned. 
What did He create ; He created the herald. He created the 
drummer, but above all He created the executioner. 

It is worthy of note here that we have two of the names of the 
Supreme Being introduced in connexion with the name of the 
first ancestor of the chiefs of Mampgn. It is extremely unlikely 
that this would be so, did their names and the sense in which 
they are understood, date only from the advent of the missionary. 

The drummer thus runs through the whole line of ancestors of 
the chiefs right down to the reigning king, now and again 
a word or a sentence throws a flash of light on some forgotten 
custom, and every message has stamped on it signs of having been 
handed down from a distant past. 

Here is another example : 

O'dg-man-ko-ma, bg-g, a-c?e, Bg-re Bg-re 5o, a-de, g-bg de, e-ben, 
g-bg-g g-sen, g-bg-g, kye-re-ma, g-bg-g^ Ku-a-ku, Ak-wa, bo-a-fo ti-ti- 
ri Ko-nin-sa-mo-agyay Gya-rne, A-mo-a-gya e-sen, be-gye, wo, fo-kye, 
o-gya, wo de e-hen o-gya, wo, a-ka-bu, g-gya, wo a-tg-per-e o-gya, wo, 
Gya-mey A-m-poh-m-kyi, A-m-jpon-sa, Mam-iygn, A-som Gyi-ma, bi- 
rem-pgh frrim-pgn, da-mir-i-fa, da-mir-i-fa, da-mir-i-fa ! 

The Supreme Being created things, the Creator created things, 
what things did He create 1 He created the herald. He created the 
drummer, He created Kwaku Akwa (meaning unknown), but chiefly 
He created the executioner, Konimtmioagya, Gyame, Amoagya 


(meaning unknown), Herald, come and get your black monkey-&kin 
hat, what did he leave you 1 he left you akabu (meaning obscure) 
he left you death of a thousand cuts, he left you Gyame AmponaaJeyi 
(a name ?) Amjponaa Mampgn, Aaom Gyima, mighty one, firimjpon 
(?) woe, woe, woe 1 

(Asom Gyima was th^ 8th king of Mampon.) 

A message to summon people when a fire is raging in a town runs 
as follows : 

Mam-jpon kon-ton-kyi, g-loj a, e-ht a-ku-ma, mo, m-ma, mo-ho, 
m^-me-re'SO, o-gya hu-ren I hu-refi / hu-ren I 

Mam'pqn (an impoi*tant town in Ashanti), kontorikyi (archaic), 
the stone that has worn out the axe, arise, fire raging I raging ! 
raging 1 

Note, the allusion to a stone wearing out an axe almost certainly 
refers to the grinding of celts or axe-heads, though the Ashantis 
have no recollection of a stone age, calling all such stone axes, 
* God's axes '• 

Finally, the following is selected out of many messages used 
in time of war. As already stated, in an actual engagement 
messages to the various companies are sent by the general by means 
of heralds and the abrafo executioners, the drums being used to 
encourage the men and insult the enemy. 

. . . First come the names of famous chiefs, then, wa-krnn 
n-nipa ma n-ni-pa ye de-e-ben, wa-kum, n-ni-pa, ma n-ni-pa ye sa- 
maUf a-hoa-a, dom-jpo, se, g-da, wo, a-se, ne, m-me^'-ebo-se-e, n-yan- 
kom-pa-sa-kyi, Kwa-ku, A-gyai, se, g-da, wo, ase g-n-wi-ni kg, dwo, 
a, g-da, wo, ase, a-de kg-kye, a-no-pa-nso, a, g-da, wo ase A-ha-ran- 
tg, g-kye-na, ye-be-kum^ wo, a-no-pa hcrma, he-ma, he-ma, 

... Men are slain that they should become what? men are 
slain that they should become ghosts, the animal the dog says he is 
very grateful to you for that thick lump of your liver, the vulture 
too, he says he thanks you very much, he thanks you in the evening 
when the sun is cool, when the day dawns he thanks you, hail- 
ing you, Akurantg! We shall kill you to-morrow early, early, 

608. Wo yere a onye no, na ete se obi aguaman. 

When your wife is a woman of no morals, then she might as well 
be some one else's harlot. 


609. Wo ytrt cmyin a, wuniutu 'mirika na ekohyia no. (3649) 

Before your wife has reached puberty you do not run to meet her. 

Anyin, Lit. has not grown. Euphemistictdiy used for a girl 
reaching puberty. Quite little girls are married and go to live 
with their husbands, cooking and engaging in the household work, . 
though the man does not usually have sexua] intercourse till she 
* grows up '. 

610. Wo yerenom anum a, wo tekrema anum, (3650) 
When you have five wives, you have five tongues. 

611. Wo yere apem a, wo as&m aj)em, (3661) 

When you have a thousand wives, you have a thousand * palavers \ 

612. Obea n| ne kunu asem, obi nnim mu, (24) 

The conversation between husband and wife no one knows about. 

618. Oyere te se huntu; w6d^ katd wo so a, wo ho keka wo, wuyi gu ho 
7180 a, avyqw de wo* (3652) 
A wife is like a blanket; when you cover yourself with it, it irritates 
you, and yet if you cast it aside you feel cold. 

614. Qyere nye n&m na woakyekye amdna, (3653) 

A wife is not meat that she should be parcelled up and sent out to 

Woakyekye. The original has woakyekye, but the common word 
in use is, kyekye amdnd, to tie up and send. 

616. Wo yere nye a, ente se wo nko wo da, (3654) 

Even if your wife be a bad lot, that is not to say you are going to 
sleep alone. 

Nye. Lit. is notgood, meaning she is unfaithful. 

616. Asem a wontumi nkd no abgnten so no, wo nh wo yere tefie a, nkd 

nkyere no, (2858) 
When you have anything to say which could not be spoken on the 
street, do not tell it to your wife when you and she are 
together at home. 

617. Wokg na obi n^ ne yere reko a, m2)e ntem mmua, na ewg nea waye 

no, (1580) 
When you go (to a man's house) and find him fighting with his 


wife, do not be in a hurry to interfere, for there is probably 
a good reason for his doing so. 

618, Nea qref&efive yere nto mmea ho mpS. (2162) 

One who is looking out for a wife does not speak contemptuously 
of women. 

619* Aware f of oro m ode, (3434) 

On the honeymoon the yams always taste sweet. (Lit. (in) a new 
marriage, the yams mix well.) 

520. Wowo ha hone a, wofa gkasah^re, (3463) 

When you give birth to a bad child, you (will) grow weary of 

621. Wgwo nijHZy na wgawo ne tamfo, (3464) 

A man is brought forth ; his enemy has (already) been born. 

WguH), woawo. Note the different tenses, present, and aorist. 
Tamfo-=- Tan and /o. 

622. Wmjooo tafoni ha no, na onkwra ta, (3465) 
When the archer was bom, he did not hold a bow. 

Tafoni, In the original this is written with a capital, which 
would give it the meaning of a Tafoni man, (there is a town of 
this name). The Ashantis, before the introduction of flintlock 
guns from Europe, fought with bows and arrows and shields. 
There is even now a street in Coomassie known as oky&tn (shield) 
street. Bows and arrows are now only seen as * survivals ' in the 
toys the little children play with, and a shield is a royal emblem of 
the paramount king of Ashanti. (See No. 29.) 

623. * Mawo wo mah&re,^ wokyi, (3467) 

* I am weary of having bom you * is something no one ever wants 
to sa3". 

Wokyi, See note on No. 89, akyi, and No. 132, wokyi, 

624. Ohi nhyee da nwoo panyin pen. (194) 

No one ever yet fixed on a particular day to give birth to an elder 
(i. e. a man who was to be of importance some day). 

Nhyee • . . nwoo. Past tenses. For the negative see note on 
No. 33, mfa, nsisi. 


525. Wowoo * Wo di amim ' Kwasida, na v)owoo * Wo yi adwrnv * Dwoda. 
The greedy person was born on Sunday and the extortioner on 

(That is, the greedy person and the extortioner are very much 
akin to each other ; or perhaps it may mean the greedy person may 
find what he has stored up by his greed taken from him by the 
extortioner. Both interpretations are found given.) 

Wo di amim. The literal translation runs, *You are greedy' 
was born, &c., &c. ; * You are an extortioner * was born, &c., &c. 

Kwasida . . . Diboda, There are seven days in the week and 
twelve months in the year. 

The origin of the names of these days the writer has been unable 
to trace. This origin probably dates back to remote antiquity. 
Every Ashanti child born has, as one of its names, a name derived 
from the particular day on which he or she was born. 


Stbangebs, Eubopeans and Eubope. 

626. Ohoho aJcyi m^ asem, (1403) 

After a stranger has gone there is always something to be sai^l 
about him (good or bad). 

Ohoho, A stranger. Deriv. perhaps the reduplication of the 
demonstrative eho^ there, in the distance, far away ; lit. ' one from 
over there '. 

Akyi. See note on No. 89. 
Jt/jpa. Lit. to be wanting, (pa). 

627. Ohoho amd woanyd sika amd woanyd haw. (1404) 

A stranger causes one to get money (but) he also is the cause of 
one getting (bad) debts. 

Sika. See note on Na 591. 
Kaw. See note on No. 54. 

528* Ohoho ani {xkese-ctkesey nanao ehhu man mu asem^ na nea ode kilrow 
aniwa nkete-nkete na ohJu, mu asmi, (1406) 
A stranger may have big big eyes, but he does not see into what is 
going on among the people he is among, whereas the town's 
man, with little little eyes, he knows all the town's afiPairs. 

Ahese-akeit* Note the plural form of the adjective; as also 

629. Ohoho nsoa funu ti, (1408) 

A stranger does not carry the head of the corpse. 

Nsoa funu ti. For note on the custom of * carrying the body ', 
see No. 77, Funu^ see note on No. 185. 

680. Ohoho 80€ wofi na wannyaw wo hirihi a, ogyaw wo haw, (1409) 
When a stranger stops at your house and does not leave you any- 
thing else, he leaves you debts. 

Fi, See note on No. 262,^. 

Wannyaw. Lit. has not left, neg. of gyaui. 

Raw, See note on No. 54. 


531. Ohoho te se ahofra, (1410) 
A stranger is like a child. 


632. Ohc^ U Be 9fan9ii/anBu, (1411) 

A stranger is like unto the water running over the ground after 
a rain storm (which soon dries up and leaves little trace 

63d. Ohgho tUo mmara. (1412) 

A stranger does not break laws. 

Nto mmdra. To rmndra, to break a law ; hye mmdra, to make 
laws ; di mmdra so, to keep laws. This saying shows that ' igno- 
rance of the law ' does excuse, according to native custom. 

634. Ahqhoduah yewodea^ wo anuonyam ye ketewa, (1413) 

When you accept the hospitality of a stranger, your dignity is small. 

Antumyam. Anim-ye-nyam, lit. in the eyes makes bright. 

636. AhUrokyiri nye kg-na, na po na ehta, (665) 

It would not be difficult to go to Europe, if it were not for the sea. 

AhUrokyiri, For deriv. see note on No. 268. 
Kg-na, See note on No. 157, nye-nd, 

630. AhUrokyiri a merekg enhta me, mpoano na ehta me, (666) 

(The thought of) Europe, where I am going, does not distress me, it is 
(suif on) the beach that is the difficulty. 

Mpodno. Lit. the edge (mouth) of the sea. The West Coast of 
Africa is of course notorious for the surf which thunders along its 
beach, making landing often a difficult and dangerous proceeding. 

637. Nnipa nhmd 2>§ AhUrokyiri akg, na ony& na wonnya, (2431) 
All men would like to go to Europe, it is the opportunity they lack. 

Akg, Note the construction in the subordinate noun clauee, 
after the verb j9f ; see note on No. 2yWope. 

Onyi na wonnya. Lit. getting {ony&y a verbal noun), they do 
not get. ^ 

638. OhUroni a gte ahantenten m/u, se owu a, na gdafam\ (668) 

The white man who lives in the castle, when he dies he lies in the 

OhUroni, A European ; deriv. hUru, diiiy, filthy. This seems 
a decidedly unflattering etymon till one remembers that in Africa 


dirt 18 white, clay, dust, or earth coloured, hence the white man was 
christened * the dirty one '. 

Ote, See note on No. 366. 

AbarUerUen, Deriy. perhaps gbo, stone, odan, house, and tenten, 
long, high, i. e. a house built of stone. The old Coast castles are so 
called. ' The white man who lives in the castle ', is the Governor. 
Ahan, {gbo 'dan) is the common word used for * the Government ', 
lit. * the castle '. 

639. ObUroni ton aaekan naneti afwvo, (669) 

It is the white man who sells knives, yet his head is overgrown 
with hairs. 

A native, when he wants his hair cut, uses a sharp knife or razor; 
the white man, as the purveyor of these, might, so the native thinks, 
have been expected to make more use himself of his unlimited 

Afuw, See note on No. 709. 

640. Brofo adawoTimia na yen rJaria fvn'afura nta^ (644) 
It is thanks to the white man that we all wear cloths. 

Brqfo, Plu. of Obihroni, q. v. No. 538. 

Adaworoma, The word nti is probably understood after adawo- 

FwrafuTd. Reduplication oi fara. The Ashanti dress is a cloth 
wound round the body up to the breasts and the end thrown over 
the left shoulder, (if a left-handed man, the right). When coming 
into the presence of, or addressing, a chief or superior, the shoulder 
is bared as a mark of respect, the right hand placed on the hip, the 
right foot advanced, the sandal slipped off and the foot set on it, 
but not in it. 

641. Brgfo de nycmsa na eforo po. (645) 

By virtue of wisdom the white men mount the sea. 

642. Obrofatefo na gmd obHroni ye aye, (646) 

It is the native who knows English who directs the white man 
whom to pi-aise (and whom to blame). 

Ohrgfotefo. Lit. * one who hears English *, here, the native inter- 
preter. This saying pretty shrewdly sums up the position, in the 
native mind, of the official or other European who has to rely on an 
interpreter in his dealings with them. 


643. Obi nim se ohta hehta no a, ankd oho Brofo md ^yewo no, (264) 
If any one had knowledge previoas to his birth that he was going to 

have to suffer from poverty, then he would have gone to the 
white men that he might have been born of them. 

In the native mind all Europeans must be prosperous and rich. 
Anka, See note on No. 733. 
'Yevoo, See note on No. 641, *yedL 

644. Wvdi BUroni ade a, woko a^&m ano, (876) 

When you eat the white man's pay, you fight at the cannon's mouth. 

646. Wo net te AhtbirinC na wo agya te AhUrohyiri^ na wope ade a, 
wonkye nyd. (2065) 
When your mother lives in Africa and your father in Europe, and 
when there is a thing you want, you do not have to wait for it. 

Te. See note on No. 366. 

Ahihirim*. Africa, lit. among the blacks, the black man's country, 
deriv. hiri, black. 

AbUrokyiri. See note on No, 268. 



Hunger, Sickness, Medicine, Feab, Hatbbd, and Friendship. 

546. Okom de aberewa a, na ose, ' Toto hirihi md mmofra na wonni \ (1 686) 
When an old woman is hungry, then she says, ' Roast something for 
the children that they may eat '. 

647« Okom de hgho a, gdaj .na odidi ml a, obisahisa nkH/rofo yerenom, 
When a stranger is hungry he sleeps, but when he has eaten his fill 
he goes about accosting the town's folks' wives. 

Hoho, See note on No. 526. 

NkUrofo, For note on suffix^, see No. 78, korUromft, 

648. Okom de hoho a, odefi ne Mrom*. (1687) 

When a stranger is hungry, he brought it (hunger) with him from 
his own village. 

649. Okom de akoa^ na okom de hene. (1688) 

Hunger is felt by a slave and hunger is felt by a king. 

560. Okom de wo a, ede wo nJco, (1690) 

When you feel hungry, it is only you who feel hungry (one does not 
feel hungry for another). 

661. Okom de wo a, womfd wo nsa abien nnidi. (1691) 

When you are huugry, you do not use both your hands for eating 

Womfd . . nnidi. For note on double negative see No. 33, 
n^si ; nnidiy neg. of di, 

662. Okom ne ka, na efanim ka. (1692) 

Of (the two) hunger and debt, debt is preferable. 
Ka, See note on No. 54. 

663. Oyare a ebekum wo ho wo a, wonkae dMi^yofo, (3540) 

When the illness that is going to kill you comes upon you, you for- 
get the doctor who could have cured you. 
Duruyofo. Dwm-ye-fo ; some one who makes medicine. 

'*. I 


664. Oyarej woko no ahohora: (354S) 

Illness is driven off by iiisulta (fear of insults) ? 

Physical defects or abnormalities among the Ashantis such as 
lameness, hd^vinglost a finger, arm, or foot, &c., &c., preclude a man 
from ever becoming a chief. An infant bom with six fingers used 
to be killed. The saying perhaps means that a patient is more 
willing to submit to the treatment prescribed by the doctor as he 
fears the slights he would be subjected to were he to be permanently 

666. Oyare nsae a, wonnye ayaresade* (3545) 

The physician's fee is not paid till the sickness is over. 

Wonnye, Neg. of gye^ to receive, lit. they do not receive. 
Ayaresade. Sa gyare, to cure an illness, lit. something given for 
curing an illness. 

666. Oyare see akydafo. (3546) 

Sickness destroys even he who is most worthy. 


667. Woyare anomdew a, na woyare ntotg. (3548) 

If you suffer from a complaint that is always crying out for deli- 
cacies, then you (also) have a complaint that is always calling 
for buying. 

Anomdew. Lit. *a sweet mouth', cf. 'sweet tooth'. 

668. Oduruyefo nnom aduru mmd oyarefo, (1045) 

The physician does not drink the medicine for the patient. 

Aduru. See note on No. 13. 

Mmci. See note on Nos. 727 and 14. 

669. Wopa gpayare a, oyare jpa gye vjo mu. (2579) 

When you make pretence of being ill, a real illness lays hold on you. 

Wqpa, See note on No. 264, oboa. 

660. Obi nyare ayarnka nkye akyeburo mfa nsa neko yar'e. (394) 

No one who has belly-ache tries to cure himself with parched corn. 
Nyare, nkye, mfa, nsa, A good example of the idiom noted 
under No. 33, nsisi, 

661. Nntia nhtnd ye aduru, na wunnim a, na wuse, eye bone, (1021) 
All plants are medicinal, btit you do not know and say this one is 

(useless) bad. 

Aduru, See note on No. 13. ; 

K 2 


562. ' A/fi me adwru mprempren,' nye adwru, (1972) 

' Give me medicine at once/ you cannot expect that to be good 

The meaning is that the native herbalist must be given time to 
go and search for the suitable plant or root. 

663. Suro nea chen wo. (3124) 
Fear him who is near you. 

564. Suro nea ose, obegye, na neuro nea ose^ ' Merem& wo \ (3125) 
Fear him who says he will take from you, but do not fear him who 

says, ^ I am going to give you '. 

565. Misuro hum nti na maye me hqfi tia. (3126) 
Because I fear to be killed I have made my neck short. 

The common method of executing people in Ashanti was for the 
executioner (gbrafo) to seize the victim, force his head forward and 
then slowly carve through the spinal column at the base of the 
neck. A small skewer-like knife {gsepg) was generally first run 
through the cheeks and tongue in order to prevent the swearing of 
the * great ' oath or the * king's * oath. (See note on No. 496, woka.) 

566. Yensuru dgm anim, na menne as&m anim. (3127) 

We do not fear the front of battle, much less the front where words 
are weapons. 

Dgm, See note on No. 306. 
Mewne. Neg. of de. 

567. Wu»wro wnirwrn/o a, wode wo sekan gua gnankci. (3128) 

If you are afraid to incur unpopularity, you have your knife 
taken (borrowed) to flay a python. 

Nnimmo. Deriv. Bo din, 

Gua gnanka. After the knife being so used it would be con- 
sidered useless. 

The proverb means, a weak man who panders to a cheap popu- 
larity is soon imposed on. This saying, in the eight words it 
contains, gives one perhaps as good an insight into the Ashanti 
character as might be otherwise gained in as many years, and 
might be taken as the motto of those whose lot it is to rule and 
guide the destinies of this people, or at least as giving a sound basis 
on which to work. No natives among whom the present writer 
has ever cast his lot, have sharper or keener wits, or are more ready 


to take fall advantage of weakness whether engendered by a real 
and genuine desire to win their hearts by an exaggerated considera- 
tion and mistaken kindness, or merely in the hopes of gaining 
a temporary and cheap popularity ; for the recipient of any such 
mistaken leniency will be the first to laugh at and take advantage 
of the donor behind his back./ Here, real firmness, tempered by 
absolute fairness and infinite patience, commands in the long lun 
real and lasting respect long after the temporary abuse and 
grumbling thrown at one ' who will not have his knife taken from 
him to flay a python ', has subsided. The true Ashanti is at heart 
' a strong ' man and at heart respects the man who deals with him 
as such. 

Bacon's saying that no king was ever loved who was not feared, 
is very true among this really fine and manly nation. 

668. Wusuro gdgnkg bin a, wofiJbe no mprensa. (3130) 

When you fear (to remove) a slave's excrement, you look on it 
many times. 

Odgnkg, See note on No. 460, nngnkofo, 
Mprmsa. Lit. three times, see note on No. 767. 

669. Wu8uro guamsmn a, wo abaguade ye ketewa, (3131) 

When you fear to take part in public disputes, your share of fees 
(for attending such ' palavers ') is small. 

Guamsem = Gua'mU'<i8ffm, 
Ahagvade = Bg-agua-ade, 

670. Wu9uro dhmware a, wowo nnofowa ha, (3132) 

If you fear to marry a chief, you will give birth to a nameless child. 

671. Wotan wo ygnico ha €1, too ba wu avmstn. (31 79) 

When you hate your friend's child, your own child dies a sudden 

Atormn. Awu^sin ; sin, a part or fragment of a thing, hence 
here, short, sudden. 

672. Wgtan nijpa a, wgma gyen/neema nhtnd^ (3180) 

When a man is disliked he is blamed for all kinds of things. 

678. Obi tan wo a, na oparuw wo mparunihoma. (431) 

When some one hates you, he makes malignant remarks about you. 

MparuniBoma. Faruw, and nthoma, bitter, gall ; paruw is, ' to 
express an opinion on a peison or matter'. 


o74, Ohi tan wo a, enworanwora wo. (432) 

When Eoliie one hates you, he scratches you. 

Among the Ashantis it is considered u disgrace to have any 
marks (tattoo) on the face or body, such being considered a mark 
of slave origi!n. 

When a child is bom, all of whose brothers or sisters have died, 
it has its face scarred over, the idea probably being that the 
malignant spirit which has caused the death of this child's brothers 
and sisters will consider it of no account. Siich a child is even named 
gdonko, slave. See also No. 138. 

676. Ohi tan wo a, na gbg wo ahoa ode. (429) 

When some one hates you, he reminds you of the promises you 
made (and have not fulfilled). 

Ahoa ade. Bo ode, (cf. proverb No. 54), a thank-offering made 
or promised to a swman or ghosom (see No. 1 7). 

676. Wo atamfo ahiem kg agyina, na hena na ahehu wo hem ? (3169) 
When three people who hate you go aside to deliberate on the 

verdict to be given on you, who is going to find you innocent ? 

Kg agyina. Lit. to go and stand (apart). 

677. Wo tamfo di wo asem ase Jean a, woha nkyene a, edan mako, (3170) 
When one who hates you gets the first chance to state a case he 

has with you (before the elders), when you talk salt it turns 
to pepper. 

Wokd nkyene. Lit. to talk salt, i.e. speak well and truly. Salt 
18 greatly valued here as among all savages. A pinch of salt is to 
the little African what sweets are to the European child. Much of 
the talt used on the West Coast comes from the salt lagoons on the 

678. Wo tamfo sOa wo asaw a, gkyeahyea ne pa, (3173) 

When one who dislikes you imitates you dancing, he bends his 
waist sidewayH. 

Sua, To learn, also to copy. 

679. Qt'ttn nni adurUf (3174) 

There is no medicine to cure hatred. 

Nni, Neg. of wg. 

Aduru, See note on No. 13. 


680. Wotan hi a, na wofa ne j/ere. (3175) 

When you hate some one, then you seduce his wife. 

Wofa ne yere. Lit. take his wife. 

681. Wotan wo m a, womfd no mma dam. (31 76) 

(Even) if you hate your mother, you do not hand her over to the 

Womfd . . . mma. See note on No. 33, mfa, nsisi. 
Dgm. See note on No. 306. 

682. Wo ygnko di wo amim na wunni no hi a, wa ete se umsuro no. 

When your friend helps himself to the larger share (when eating 
with you) and you (next time you are eating with him) do 
not do likewise, then it is as if you fear him. 

Wunni. Neg. of diy amim being understood. 

683. Oygnko nvu wg gygnko, (3674) 

Among friends there are some who are (gi*eater) friends (than 

684. * Ygnko, ygnko,* na emd asem terew. (3675) 

* Friend, friend (I will tell you a secret),' that is how news spreads. 

686. ^^^ ^9 ^0 ani so a, wo ygnko na oyi ma wo, (814) 

When something gets in your eye, it is your friend who removes it 
for you. 

Na. Here emphatic, see No. 1. 
MU. See note on No. 14. 

686. Wohg wo ygnJoo nkyen agoru na ne ndijpam no a, na ode wo, (1583) 
When you go to your friend's house to play, and his mother drives 

him off, it is really you she means (to send home). 

Agoru. Subjunctive. 
Na, See note on No. 1. . 

687. Wo ani here wo ygnko ode a, woye hi, na wunwia. (2291) 
When you covet something belonging to your friend, you work for 

it, but you db not steal (it). . 

Ani. Eye reddeps, see note on No. 34, kghdg, 

Ade. See note on No. 85, me dea, 

Woye hi. Lit. you make, i.e. earn one by work. 


Folly and Wisdom; Tbuth and Falsehood; Poveety 

AND Riches. 

688. OkuHisea na ose, * Wgde me f/gnkp, na tvonni me\ (1907) 
It is the fool who says, ' They mean my friend, but not me \ 

Okwaaea, Deriv. okwa, in vain, foolish ; and se, to say. 
Na, Here an emphatic particle, translated by the definite article. 
See No. 1. 

Wonn^. Neg. of cfe. 

689. Okwasea na wobu no he a, wgkyere no aae, (1908) 

When the fool is told a proverb, the meaning of it has to be 
explained to him. 

Wobu . . . fcg. See note on No. 258. 
Wgkyere. Translated by passive. 

690. Okwasea, na ne guan tew mpen abien, (1906) 
It is the fool's sheep that breaks loose twice. 

Gtian. See note on No. 17. 

691. Okwasea redi ne sika a, oae ne nsenta ye merew. (1904) 

When a fool is squandering his gold dust, he says his scales are out 
of order. 

Sika. See following note on neema, Sika, original meaning, 
gold, gold dust, now stands for money (gold, silver or copper). 

Nsenta, Scales. Light balances are used by the Ashantis for 
weighing gold dust. The weights, commonly known as ' Ashanti 
weights ', are cast from metal by the cire joerdue process and often 
show a high degree of aesthetic art. Each weight is designed to 
represent some object ; man, woman^ animal, hunting-belt, pumpkin, 
&c., &c. The process of casting is as follows: A rough model of 
the object desired is worked in clay ; when dry this is coated all 
over with beeswax, and all the finishing touches added. The 
whole model is then covered over with clay ; a duct, or passage 
being left, leading to the wax. The clay is now heated, when the 
wax runs out leaving a space between the first and second layers. 



Into this the molten metal is run. When the clay is broken away, 
the metal model is found. (For a full description, vide the Author's 
Hauaa Folk-Lore.) 

The names and equivalent values in English money of some of 
the Ashanti weights (for gold dust) are as follows : 

Value in Gold Dust, 

Name of Weight. 

(approx.) ia 





£ 8. 


Fgwa, . . . 


Smallest weight used. 

F^sewa . . . 


Lit. a small seed, perhaps 
originally used as weight. 

Damma . . . 


Also a small seed. 

TakufH . . . 


Lit half a taku q.v. 

Taku . . . 


Dgmmaja (lit. 


There is a tree called the 

half a dqmma). 

dgmma tree. Probably its 
Eeed was used originally. 




One ackie. 

Bgdqmmb . . 


Bgd6m, a kind of bead. 

Smva .... 



Sowa, also name of plant. 

Agyiratwe . . 


2 ackies. 

Sum .... 


4 ackies. 

Asia .... 

1 7 

6 ackies, on which standard 
probably based as asid=^6. 

Osiid .... 



Asuanu = 2 asHd = £41^.; 
asu>asa=z3 asHd, and so 

Bermd . . . 

7 4 


Pereguan . . 

8 2 

36 ackies. 

Tasuanu . . . 

12 13 

There is a tree with long 
seed-pods called td, plu. rUa 
(not to be confused with 
tatoa, the tobacco plant) ; 
so in tasuanu we would 
seem to have, 1 cUa + 2 asHa. 
Two nta=^7Uanu, as Eeen 
below = £16 4s, One atd 
therefore = £8 28. + 2 asOa 
(=£4 U); total, £12 3s. 

Ntanu . . 

16 4 

See note above on tasuanu. 

Ntam, . . . 

24 6 

Ntasa=z£24 6«. and so on. 

It will be noted that many of the names of ' Ashanti weights ' 
are also the names of plants or trees, and hence of their seeds, 


which would seem to point to these haviDg originally been used as 
weights, and it would be most interesting to take, say two seeds 
from the tawa tree and compare the metal weight of that name, 
when the value of gold dust in ancient times might be roughly 
gauged. There ■ seem to be three bases of currency, the mpeaewa, 
the t(tku, and the ackie, con*espondiug(approximately) to our ld»,6d., 
48, Qd, The designs used for weights would seem often to be 
symbolical (see proverbs Nos. 136 and 174). 

Merew. Soft, yielding, here of scales, easily weighed down, 
hence out of ordex\ 

692. Okwasea ant te a, n& agoru agu, (1910) 

By the time the fool has learned to play the game, the players have 

Te, Te, tew, lit. to be cleai*. 

698. Ohioasea nnim birihi a, onim nefufu taw, (1911) 

If the fool knows nothing else, he (at least) knows all about his 
plantain dumpling. 

Fufu. See note on No. 14. 

694. Nea wuredn kwasea no, na onyansafo te hgfibe tvg, (2238) 

Where you are taking advantage of a fool, there a wise man is, 
looking on at you. 

Onyansafo, For note on suffix /o, see No, 78, kontromft, 

696. Ohwasea na wgtew ne ntorowa ton no, (1909) 

It is the fool whose own tomatoes (1) are plucked and sold to him. 

Na, Translated by the definite article. 
Wotew, Translated by passive. 

696. Nyansa nye sika na togakyekyere asie. (2554) 

Wisdom is not gold dust that it should be tied up and put away. 

Wgakyekyere asie. Lit. that they have ... in order to. 

697. Onyansafo de pesewa gye gkwasea nmm' jpereguan, (2555) 

The clever man takes one penny worth of gold dust and receives 
from the hand of the fool gold dust of the value of £%, 

Pesewa . . . jpereguan. See note on ' Ashanti weights ' under 
No. 591. 


698. Anyavsafo hdnu gotm a, nioto ha, (2558) 

When two men of equal wisdom play together, discord arises. 
Bmm, See note on No. 781. 

699. Anyansafo hdnu kye menad, ghako dan si ho, na ghdko redafi hutuw 

ho. (2659) 
When two wise men are dividing up a yam between them, one turns 
a piece over and puts it down (for the other), but the other 
again turns it over and exposes the other side. 

Mensds A variety of yam which is very liable to attack from an 
insect pest which bores into the yam and spoils it ; the turning 
of the yam mentioned in the saying is to cover up the diseased 

600. Oht nkyehyere nyansa-hotoku mfa nkoto adakam mmegyina adihg, 
nse no ««, * Kyere me asem', (223). 
No one ties up a wisdom-bag, and takes it and puts it away in a box 
and comes and stands in the courtyard and says, ^ Explain the 
matter to me \ 

Nyansa-kotoku. In the original this is written with a hyphen, 
making* the word a compound noun, lit. ' a wisdom-bag ' ; without 
the hyphen, and with mu added, it would mean, — * wisdom in 
a bag'. 

Mfa, nkgto, mmegyina, nse. Note that all these verbs are in the 
negative following the first verb nkyekyere. See note on No. 33, 

601. N^kware mu nni ahra, (2475) 
In truth there is no deceit. 

Nokware, Deriv. ano = mouth, and kware {Vj, 
Nni, Neg. of wo, 

602. Nokware nye aM (nngso) na wgatwa mu nkontompo, (2477) 
There is not so much of truth that it should be cut off by falsehood. 

Wgattffa. Lit. that they should have cut it. Twa nkontompo, 
lit. to * cut a lie ' (from truth ?), i. e. to tell a lie. 

608. Wutiki nkont(mvpo a, vmsuro Kumase. (3403) 
When you tell a lie, you fear Coomassie. 

The king of the Ashantis used to be resident in Coomassie, hence 
important cases would be taken to be tried there. 


Kumase, Deiiv. Kuniy to kill, and ase, under. Lit. * under the 
kill tree ', from a tree in the centre of the town under which 
human sacrifices and executions took place. 

604. Qtdrofo de mfe a2)em tu kwan a, qnohwafo de dakoro tiw no to no, 

Whereas the liar takes a thousand years to go a journey, the one 
who speaks the truth follows and overtakes him in a day. 

Otbrofo. A liar ; the root would seem to be tdro^ tdrotdro, slip- 
pery, hence metaphorically * smooth-tongued ', ' oily-tongued '. 

606. ' Oldrofo gye agua\' ose, * Manya gbo\ (3339) 

' Smooth-tongued one take a seat ' ; he says, * I have got a stone '• 

Otdrofo. See note above, 604. 
Agua, As akonniui, stool. 

606. Otdrofo na ose, ' Me danaefo tog AhUrokyiri \ (3341) 
The smooth-tongued one says, * My witness is in Europe '. 

AhUrokyiriy See note on No. 268. 

607. Wode nkontompo kd asem a, wobere. (764) 

When you speak falsehoods in stating a case, you become weary. 

The antithesis of this saying is often added, i. e. wode nokware ka 
asem a, aum ; when you speak the truth the matter dies, L e. is 
quickly settled. 

608^ Wode nkontompo 2^ ctde mfe apem a, onokwafo de nokware gye wo 
nsam* dakoro. (755) 
When you seek for a thing for one thousand years by the aid of 
falsehood, the truthful man, using truth, takes it from your 
grasp in a day. 

609. Atokoro see nokwajpem. 

One falsehood spoils a thousand truths. 

Atokoro = Atoro-koro. 
Nokwapem=^ Nohware-ajpem. 

610. EMa bateni hta 2)dni. (1330) 

When the hirer is in want, the hireling is in want. 

JShia. An impersonal verb, ' it lacks^ there is need of to '. Ehta 
me sika, there is need of money to me, I lack money. 


BatanL Deriv. hata^ trade, and nt, the personal suffix. Di 
hata = to trade. 

Pant, Deriv, pa to hire, also to give one*s services for payment, 
ni the personal suffix. 

611. Ehia onipa Qy oda wuram* . (1331) 

When a man is in want, he sleeps in the forest. 

That is, he is compelled to go far afield, hunting or fishing, in 
order to find food. 

Wuram\ See note on No. 92. 

612. Ehta wo a, na worewe sumdnd-dtjui. (1333) 

When in want, then you eat the palm nuts off the refuse heap. 

Worewe, Present continued action expressed by re, lit. you are 

613. Ehta wo a, nwu. (1 334) 
When you are in want, do not die. 

That is, do not give up hope. 

614. * Ahta me na fibe ma me,' ntl na obi yee akoa, (1335) 

* I am in want, so look after me,' it is thus some became slaves, (lit. 
one became a slave). 

Yee, Past tense, formed by lengthening of final vowel. 
Akoa, See note on No. 443. 

616. Ohta, wodi no fie, na wonni no gua so, (1337) 

When you are a poor man, you remain at home and do not mix in 
public affairs. 

Wodi no , . , na wonni, &c. Lit. poverty, you eat it at home, 
but do not eat, &c. Wonni, neg. of di, 

616. Ohta hta wo a, wowe aherekyi were, (1339) 
When you are in want, you chew a goat's skin. 

Aherekyi toere. In times of scarcity the skins of goats and sheep 
are cut up and boiled. 

617. Ohta hta wo na vmtt aheti a, &d,an fin, (1340) 

When you are in want and pick out the maize from the pot, that 
even turns into a leaf. 

AbetL Roasted maize, which only the poor eat. H, lit. to 
pinch between the finger and thumb, hence pick out with the 




Fdh, A leaf, hence vegetable, like ispinach. Many leaves of 
various plants are boiled and eaten in time of great scarcity. 
The natives derive Fantee from this word. 

618. OKia hta wo na wotg nsu-oniJbinim* a, eh^/e wo. (1341) 

When you are suffering from poverty and happen to fall into cold 
water, it scalds you. 

619. Ohtanhyeda. (1342) 

Poverty does not fix on a day (to come upon one), (i. e. its arrival 
will be unexpected). 

620. Ohta na ejnm qdehye ye akoa, (1344) 

It is povei*ty that causes the free man to become a slave. 

Na, Here emphatic. See No. 1, na. 
Qdehye, See note on No. 430. 
Ahoa, See note on No. 443. 

621. Ohia na mvoL qtibea ho angpa-he 800, (1345) 

It is poverty that causes the dog (i.e. the dog's master) to have to 
turn out for the early morning palm-nut cutting. 

Otibea, A bitch, also used generally for both male and female, 
= o^avnan = dog. 

A^wpa-he, Angj)a-ahe, lit. morning palm nut. There are two 
recognized times for the cutting of palm nuts, very early in the 
morning, called anopu-be and again late in the afternoon, called 
ammte-be {amtmere-abe). Hence these two expressions are often 
used to mean generally the hours of about 5-6 A. m. and 4-5 p. m. 

622. Ohta ne gyimi, (1346) 
Poverty is stupidity. 

That is, a poor man is reckoned a fool. Cf. No. 627 below. 

628. Ohta nni AhUrokyiri a, ankd, OhHroni ammehata ne ntama 
Ah\Urim\ (1347) 
If there had been no poverty in Europe, then the white man would 
not have come and spread his cloths in Africa. 

AbUrokyiri. See note on No. 268. 
Anka, See note on No. 733. 
Obttroni, See note on No. 538. 
Ammehata, Note the auxiliary, bdra, 
Abibirim\ See note on No. 545. 


624. Ohta te se 'wo^ enngfako, (1348) 

Poverty is like honey, it is not peculiar to one place alone. 

Enno, Neg. of do, 

625. Olmb nti na aseredowa sisi ahUrohia so. (1351) 

It is want that causes the little ' aseredowa ' bird to alight on the 
^hii/rchia* plant. 

Nti = Eno ti, 

626. OAui tumi nye tttmi-pa, (1353) 

The display of power exhibited by poverty is not real power. 

A poor man having nothing to lose and becoming desperate, 
sometimes commits acts which some one having anything at stake 
would hesitate to do. 

627. Ohta ye addmmo. (1354) 
Poverty is madness. 

Cf. No. 622 above. 
Addmmo, Derive, bg dam. 

628. OMa-da na wohu nipa. (1357) 

On the day of poverty it is then you perceive who is a man. 
(a friend) 

Na. Emphatic particle, see No. 1. 

629. Ohtani ahdioa koro nkye bere, nso wankq a, yennidi. (1 359) 

The poor man's only slave girl soon gets wear, but if she does not 
go (and work) we do not eat. 

Nkye here. Lit. does not delay tiring. * Soon * is thus expressed 
in the Ashanti idiom. 

680. Ohtani ho mfuw. (1360) 

The poor man does not get in a rage. 

Bo mfuwi See note on kgn do, No. 34. 

681. Ohtani hu he a, enhye. (1361) 

When a poor man makes a proverb, it does not spread abroad. 

Bu he. See note on No. 258. 

682. Ohtani di jpowade a, eye se odi dikine. (1362) 

When a poor man eats something of the value of a halfpenny, it is 
as if he partakes of a sheep. 


Pgwade, Pgwa ode, see note on No. 591, nsenia, 
Dtbane=^ Oguan. 

ess, Ohtanifura ky^mi a, eye se efiira dtmsin, (1365) 

When a poor man wears a silken robe, it is as if it decked a tree 

Dunsin = Dua sin. For derivation according to natives, see 
No. 57, odwm, 

6S4, Ohtani hye sika a, wobu no aibowa, (1366) 

When a poor man is decked out in gold, people say it is brass. 

Sika, See note on No. 591, sika, here 'golden ornaments'. 

6S6. Ohtani n^ gdefo nnoru. (1367) 

The poor man and the rich man do not play together. 

Odefo, Piu. adefo, lit. the possessor of things. For note on 
suffix fo, see No. 78, kontromft, 
Nnoru, Neg. of goro. 

656. Ohtani rnii biribi a, gtog tekrema a ode tutu ka, (1368) 

If the poor man has nothing else, he at least has a tongue with 
which to defer the payment of his debts. 

Ode. This verb ((2e) is used to express the English ' by means 
of, with. 

Tutu ka. See note on No. 54. 

657. Ohtani rmi yonM, (1369) 
The poor man has no friend. 

658. Ohtani nom tawa-pa a, eye se tasmft, (1370) 

When a poor man smokes good tobacco, it is as if he were smoking 
the remains of some old tobacco in a pipe. 

Tdsmft = Tawa-osen-fi, 

689. Ohtani pam akorogow a, na eye no se odidi sanywnC, (1372) 

When the poor man mends his broken wooden bowl, it seizes him 
just as well as if he ate off a pewter dish. 

Akorogow, 6roti7, old, useless, cf. n^amo^oio, an old cloth. Suffix 
ft expresses the same idea. 

640. Ohtani mpaw dabere. (1373) 

A poor man does not chose his sleeping-place. 

Dabere, Suffix 6erc= place where. 


641. Ohiani a8em\'yedinontiantiam\ (1374) 

The complaint a poor man brings is investigated briefly. 

'Yedi. *Ye is probably the Akem dialect, 3rd person plural, 
Ashanti wg, wo. Here translated by passive. 

642. Ohtani cisomm^ ne batafiw, (1375) 

The poor man's elephant tusk is the wart-hog's tooth. 

Asomm^. See note on No. 94, 8^. 

648. Ohtani yarn gorgw a, *ye8e qyane nnwahama, (1378) 

When the poor man wears a necklace of the soft silky ' g<yrow ' 
leaves, it is said he is wearing a sheep's halter. 

Gorgw. A plant with particularly soft silk-like leaves, also called 
afase. G&rdvjw also means weak, perhaps from same root. 
*Ye8e. See note above. No. 641, *yedL 
Nhihahama^^Qguan Kama. 

644. Obi mfa ohta ntow adotebe. (146) 

Not even poverty will make a man fell a palm-tree that stands in 
a swamp. 

Adotebe^^Dgte-abe, Abe, the palm wine {j^ma vinifera) tree. 
On felling, that the wine may be drawn off, the tree is not cut 
down as a rule, but the roots dug under. When so felled the wine 
lasts much longer without drying up than when the tree is cut 
down in the ordinary manner. 

646. Obi mfa oKia nsi apempem. (147) 

No one can extort from another by using his poverty as a threat. 

Mfa . . . nd. Note the two negatives, see note on No. 33, nsisi. 

646. Obi bo wo dua se, *M& onwu / ' a, eny^ yaw se ose, *M& ohta nka no / * 

If any one invokes a fetish against you, saying, ' Let this man die ', 
he is not harming you as much as he would were he to say 
* Let poverty lay hold on him '. 

Bo dua. To knock a piece of wood into the ground and at the 
same time to invoke a curse and call on the fetish to harm the 
person against whom evil is intended. 

Ontou, nka. Imperative. 

647. Wunni ntrama a, na wuae, nsH nye de. (919) 

When you have not a cowry shell, then you say that winc^ is not 
sweet). > \ . 9 -' 



Wunni, Neg. of m^. 

Ntrama. Cowries, still to be seen in the markets of the interior. 
At Ejura in 1913, 160 cowries went to Id. ; 40 cowries=l gban ; 
50 mman (plu. of o5aw)=l otiri, (head). The small * subsidiary ' 
coinage introduced in 1912 to the Gold Coast Colony, and pre- 
viously to that into Nigeria (tenths and halfpennies) will soon 
banish the cowry altogether from these regions. 

648, Osikani ne panyin. (2960) 

The rich man is the elder (i.e. man of importance whose words 
cany weight in council). 

Ne, See note on No. 1. 
Panyin. See note on No. 1. 

649, W(mni sika a^ anka wqfre no rJhwSa kwa. (917) 

If one could not make use of gold dust, then it would merely 
be called sand. 

WownL Neg. of di, 

Stka, See note on No. 591. 

Ankci. See note on No. 733. 

660. Sika nni adagyew a, womfa mpe bosea, (2935) 

When one has just sufficient money for one's own needs, one does 
not let it out at interest. 

Nni. Neg. of tog. 

Adagyew, Lit. when money has no ' opportunity *. 
Wgmfa mpe. For double negative see note on No. 33, nsid. Pe 
bosea, also ho bosea, to lend, or to borrow. 

661. Siha nni, ' Kawonsape\ (2936) 

With gold dust (money) it is not (a case of), * Put foiih your hand 
and find \ 

662. Sika nko adidi nsan mma kwa, (2938) 

Money does not go out to earn its livelihood and come back empty- 
handed (i. e. it earns interest). 
Nkg, nsan, mma. For the negatives see note on No. 33, nsist. 

663. Sika kyen nkrante nnam. (2939) 
Money is sharper than a sword. 

Kyeii. Note the comparative degree formed by using the verb 
^^:0r kym, to surpass. 


664. Sika jpereguan da kWrom' a, ewo amansan. (2942) 

If there is a ^reguan worth of gold dust in a town, it is for 
the whole people. 

Pereguan, See note on No. 591, nsenia. 

This saying points to a system of communism having existed 
even with regard to what would now be considered as more or less 
private property. There are many survivals of a communistic 
state still in evidence ; it is seen in their system of land tenure, and 
in that the private debts of one person are recoverable from the 
entire family of that person. This last is a relic of collective re- 
sponsibility of the whole clan for the acts of a single member. 

666. Wo sika resci a, na wo ani tew. (2944) 

When your gold dust is becoming finished, then you become 

Ani tew. Lit. your eyes become open, wide. 

666. Sika seney hirihi aneeh bio, (2945) 

Wealth (is) beyond everything, nothing is beyond that again. 

667. Sika te se akoa, woanJm no so five a, oguan, (2946) 

Gold dust (money) is like unto a slave, if you do not look after it 
well, it runs away. 

Woanha, Lit. have not. Aorist tense. 

658. Sika ye fe na 02)egyafo ye ndi, (2950) 

Wealth is a fine thing, but to find an heir is not easy. 

Opegyafo, Lit. j^'{neaygyaw-fo, some one to leave to. 
N&, See note on No. 157, nye-ndi, 

659. Wo sika ye wo yaw a, gkgm de wo, (2951) 

If (spending) your money gives you pain, you will go hungry. 

660. Wo sika ye wo yaw na woko a, wunyi dgm, (2952). 

If (spending) your money gives you pain and you go to war, you 
will not win. 

Dgm, See note on No. 306. 

661. Sika-dwuma hiara nye anivm, (2953) 
It is no shame at all to work for money. 

AnitJiM, See note on No. 753. 



662, Osikafo nom ns& bow a, wgfre no yare. (2954) 

When a sick man is drunk, he is merely said to be unwell. 

668. Osikafo wo ho yi, ofv/ra ntamagow, (2955) 

When a man is wealthy, he may wear an old cloth. 
Ntamagow. See note on No. 639, 

664. Osikani de, wgnniohntft no bone ara da. (2957) 

As for a rich man, he is never sneezed at unluckily. 

Wahnw&mt, Nwansi, a good example of onomatopoeia. In 
Ashanti when a subject sneezes before a chief his nose is imme- 
diately rubbed with white clay, and during that particular day the 
sneezer will be held accountable for any bad or good luck the chief 
may have, and punished or rewarded accordingly. 

666. Sika bm wo a, ehoa, (2931) 

When gold is close to you, it is pale (no longer glitters). 

666. WiMiyH ode a, wotan wo ; umnny& ode a, toqfre too bone, (2516) 
When you are rich, you are hated ; when you are poor, you are 
called a bad man. 


Fire, Water, Rivers, Rain. 

667. Ogya a ebedew n^ ne tbisie nko, (1 245) 

The fire which is going to blaze up has a different smoke (from 
other fires). 

Ogya, Fire, also firewood, fuel. 

N^ ne. The first n^ is the conjunction, * and, with * (from the 
verb de), the second ne is of course the possessive pronoun. Lit. * the 
fire and its smoke ', &c. 

Wisie^ Oivisiw, 

668. Ogya a eye vmam nkye afuw 80, (1246) 

The firewood which is good for fuel does not remain long in the 
plantation, (It is soon carried home for fuel.) 

Nnam. Has various meanings ; * sharp, brave ', and here * quick ', 
i.e. to catch alight. 
Afuw, See No. 709. 

669. Ogya dedaw ano nye sg-nd, (1247) 

Wood already touched by fire (and rendered dry) is not hard to set 

Dedaw, Da^ dada, reduplication. 
So- na. See note on No. 157, nye-nd, 

670. Ogya hye wo a, woperew to wo ha so ansa-na woayi afi no so, 

When a spark from the fire bums you, you shake it off on to your 
child before you (finally) take it off him (again). 

Woperew, To jerk off, to shake off; not to be confused with 
pirew, to roll. See No. 672, below. 

Afi, Translate by ' from, off'; really a verb,^, to come out. Cf. 
use of the verbs, tog and met, as prepositions. 

671. Ogya hye wo a, eny^ wo de, na woretafo, (1250) 

When fire bums you, you do not find it sweet, but you keep licking 
the place nevertheless. 

Woretafo, Be, present continued action ; tafo = taforo. 


672. Ogyapireu) a, ehye nea gda ano. (1251) 

When a firebraud rolls out from the fire, it burns the one sleeping 
nearest to it. 

Pirew, In the * Tshi Proverbs ' this is written p^ew (see note 
above, No. 670, on woj>erew). The present writer has always heard 
the saying as here given. 

678, Ogya 71^ atudAnv nna, (1259). 

Fire and gunpowder do not sleep together. 

Atvduru^=-Otuo-ad%i/rUy lit. gun medicine. 

674, Yenim se wgde gya hekg akogu sumdna so, nanso wodcji wuram' ha 
tty wode ha ofie anscl, (2350) 
We know tliat ash is taken and thrown out on the ash heap, yet 
when it was brought from the bush (as firewood), it was first 
of all taken to the house. 

Fi vmram. Ft, translated by * from ' (but in Ashanti a verb, 
see above, No. 670, afi), Wuram\ see note on No. 92. 

676. A9U a yenni mu adwene no, yemfd mujmo. (3067) 

From the river whose fish we do not eat, we do not (even) take 
a nugget. (Cf. No. 676, below.) 

A su. See note on No. 26, nsu. 

Tenni. Neg. of di, 

Pow, A lump, here of alluvial gold. This proveib shows 
how strong a taboo can be considered. See note on Tarmo^ 
No. 55. 

676. Asu a wonnuare no, wgnnom, (3068) 

A river (lit. water) you would not bathe in is not drunk from. Cf. 
No. 675, above. 

Wonnuare, Neg. of guare ; see No. 363, Jiohoro, 

677, Asu et eta ho dinn na efa onijpa. (3069) 

It is the water which stands there calm and silent that drowns 
(lit. takes) a man. 

Na efa. Na, emphatic paiticle ; efa, used euphemistically, lest 
perhaps the spirit in the river might be oflPended and be avenged on 
the speaker. 



678. Asu a ete se hosoropo na nki/ene atwam yt, na ewg ase, (3070) 

A body of water like the great sea, which is so very salt, there 
mast be a reason for that. 

Ase. Lit. bottom, foundation. 

679. Asu biara ho po mu a, na ne din ayera. (3071) 
Whatever the river that falls into the sea, its name is lost. 

Ay era. Aorist tense. 

iSSO. Asu ho hirihi din na eibow, (3072) 

Water adjures the name of some thing (utters a spell) and then 
dries up. (Water does not dry up without a cause.) 

Bg hirihi din. Lit. to speak the name of some thing, i. e. (1) gives 
or has some reason for a certain action, or (2) adjures some one or 
some thing to give it power to perform a certain action. 

681. Asu fa wo a, eho nhama nhind tan wo, (3073) 

When a river is taking you (i. e. drowning you), then all the creepers 
on its bank (you clutch at) hate you (and will not let you get 
a hold). 

Fa. See note above on No. 677, na efa, 

Eho nhama. Lit. the 'about it creepers', i.e. on the banks. 
Note how nature is given human attributes, cf. proverb No. 680. 

682. Asu nyiri nwam, (3079) 

A river does not flood out the toucans (which roost on the tops 
of high trees). 

688. Nsu a wode redum gya, wqmjpe no kronkroh, (3080) 
Clear water is not sought for to quench a fire. 

Nsu, See note on No. 26. 
Wgmpe. Translated by passive. 

684. Nsu fa wo a, wommi hi, (3086) 

When water is drowning you, you nevertheless drink some of it. 

Fa, See note on No. 677, na efa. 

685. Nsu-hunu ye gmS a, ankSi oka mfa darewa, (3087) 

If plain water was satisfying enough, then the fish would not take 
the hook. 
Ank&. Vide note on No. 733. 


Akd. A kind of fish. 

Darewa, Dade, iron, and the diminutive suffix toa, lit, 'the 
little piece of iron \ 

686. Nsu kye team' a, ehqn. (3089) 

When water remains long in a calabash, it stinks. 

Ehgn, BohfO^B. disagreeable smell only; hH'&m, of a pleasant smell. 

687* ^su pgtgpgtg / tiatia mu na kgsaw nsu-pd I (3090) 

Muddy water ! pass through it and go and draw the pure. 

Pgtopgtg. An onomatopoetic word, of walking and sinking in 

688* Nsu a8& (uti/m* nti na osdMsd re/a apatd, (3091) 

Because the water has dried up in the river the fish eagle is catch- 
ing the fish. 

NsUj . . . asum. Note the difi^erence in meaning. See note on 
No. 26, nsu, 

689. Nsu anso aguare a, eso nom, (3093) 

Water which is not sufficient for bathing in, is sufficient for drinking. 

Aguare. See note on No. 353, hohoro. 

690. Nau-nau nhind dgso, na h68ono2)o ne jpanyin, (3094) 

Of all the many waters the sea is the old man among them. 

Ne, See note on No. 1. 
Panyin, See note on No 1. 

691. Nsu yiri a, na apata aye ahantan, (3097) 
When the water is in flood, the fish is proud. 

692. Osu a etg Krgbgw no, ebi atg Siade. (3051) 

Of the rain that falls on the Crobo hills some has fallen on the Shai 

Osu, See note on No. 26, nsu, 

Krghgw. The * Crobo ' hills to the west of the Volta ; ' Siade ', 
part of the same range (1). 

698. Osu boro ho a, etim' nea etim*, (3053) 

Though rain beats on a stone it (the stone) stands fiim where it 

Etim=-Ti mu. 


604. Osu Hbe fwo a, wuse, * Wafwe me\ na wunse se, * OpetU me 8o\ 
When the rain beats you, you say, ' It has beaten me ', but you 
do not say, * It drizzled on me '. 

Se, See note on No. 66. 
. Perhaps the idea in this proverb is that seen in Nos. 681 and 
677, where a euphemistic expression is used so as to avoid giving 
offence. In the case of the rain, it not haying any particular ' mana * 
* we can afford to speak our mind ', they would say. 
. OpetSS, Past tense ; wafibe is Aorist. 

696. Oso to d, tvokum kgmfo; osu antg a, wokum kgmfo, (3056) 

When the rain falls, the fetish piiest is killed; (and) when the rain 
does not fall, the fetish priest is killed. 

Kgmfa. See note on No. 22, gkgmfo, 

696. Oso hetg a, mframa na edi kan. (3057) 

When the rain is going to fall, it is the wind that comes first. 

Na, Emphatic particle, trans, by *it is the . . . ' See No. 1. 

697. Oso atg aboro asense, * Monnserew me, me ho hewo \ (3059) 

The rain has fallen (and) beat on the ^ asense ' fowl (and she says), 
* You need not laugh at me, I shall get diy '. 

A tb aboro. Note the two finite verbs unconnected by any pre- 

Asense, A kind of native hen, the feathers on which look very 
scanty and as if constantly ruffled. 

698. Osu tofwe wo na owiafi hye wo a, na ttmhu ahrahq yaw, (3060) 
When the rain falls and beats upon you and the sun comes forth 

and scorches you, then you behold (as it were) the troubles of 

Owia, See note on No. 1, asase, 

Abrabg, Deriv. ho and hSra (1) a state of being or coming (into 
the world), hence events that befall one in life. 

699. Osutggupomu, (3061) 

The rain falls, pouring into the sea. 

(The saying is often continued by an explanatory sentence 
which runs, yendm se epo so, nanso nsu to gum. We know the sea 
is large, but the luin falls into it notwithstanding.) 


700. Oao to na egu hiribi so ansct-na ekct wo a^ enyi yaw, (3063) 
When the rain falls and drops on something else first before touch- 
ing you, it does not hurt. 

701. Osu to anadtbo na woanhu a, adeki/^e, woanhufam ana ? (3065) 
When the rain falls at night and you have not known of it, at dawn 

have you not seen the gi-ound ? 

Adekj/eS, See note on 203, ade ansci. 


I Genebaii Pbecefts and Maxims. 

702, Obi abeseburow mmd {nyi yiy^) a, womfd won anan ase akufnsumdn 
nkqfa mu (ase), (115) 
When some one's October maize crop does not promise well, no one 
is fool enough to go and walk through that plantation with 
a bad charm fastened to his legs (and thus get the blame cf 
causing the crop to fail, which was obviously going to happen 
in any case). 

Abesebilrow. Derivation, bese (to pluck?) and ahurow, Indian 
corn. Hence, crops planted from October onwards, which are 
naturally very uncertain, as the rains proper are then over, such 
crops being dependent on chance showers. Such a second crop is 
also sometimes known as (zdom-mHroto, lit. ^ com got by grace \ 

Wgmfd . , . nkqfa. For the double negative see note on mfa, 
nsisiy No. 33. 

Akum84rrMi,\ Lit. a charm to kill, i.e. counteract another charm, 
good or bad accofding as the charm which it is to neutralize is bad 
or good. In this case the owner of the faim would have a good 
charm to promote the growth of his crops, hence the counteracting 
charm would be a bad one. For note on sitmdn see No. 17, 

Nkqfa mil. Lit. to go and take (the way) in, i.e. walk there. 

708* Ohi bg wo aiberekyeki/i sitmdn nd ode nkdmm6 dili wo anb ^, wa 
wannya jpapa bi anye wo, (117) 
When some one fastens a charm of comfort (on your wrist) but 
finishes up by securing it with a knot of mourning, he has not 
really benefited you at all. 

Awerekyekyi. Lit. Mo bind up, tighten the skin*, i.e. to solace, 
to comfort. See note on kgn do, No. 34. 

Siimdn. See note on gbosom, No. 17. 

Nkdmmd. From bg. 

Wannya . . . anye. For double negative, see note on mfa, nsisi, 
No. 33. 


704. Ohi abu^Ade ye obi akdrad^, (^1^) 

What is bad luck for one man is good luck for another. 

Ahusudi, Deriv. nmmsu ode* 

Akdradi, Lit. something for the soul. Deriv. gkra ode. See 
note on nkrahea, No. 9. 

706. OM busuyefog ne hi nipa-jpa, (119) 

A knave for one is a good man for another. 

Busuyefoq, Deriv. mmu^su-ye-fo. For suffix fo, see note on 
No. 78, hmtromfi. 

706. Ohi ade-dedaw kg obi nmm ' a, eye nofoforo, (121) 

When an old thing belonging to one person gets into the hands of 
another, it becomes a new thing for him. 

Ade-dedaw. Dedaw, reduplication of da, =dada, 

707. Obi afom akimi a, wo nso mfom nnua / (126) 

When some one has killed something by mistake, as for you, do not 
flay it by mistake ! 

Afom akum. Note these two finite verbs, both Aorist tense, 
used without the conjunction (and), which is necessary in English. 
The Ashanti idiom runs, '. . . some one has made a mistake, some 
one has killed '. The same idiom is seen in nfom nnua. It is this 
form of speech, short principal clauses unconnected by any prepo- 
sition, which accounts for the confusing double negative, see note 
on nsisiy No. 33. 

Nmm, Neg. of gua. 


708. Obi fre wo Sew6si a, mjpe ntem nserew; ebia wo agya ye ^bownaJtofb, 
(127) ■ 
If some one remarks you are like your father, do not be in too 
great a hurry to laugh (i.e. be flattered); for all you know, 
your father may have been a ravisher of women. 

Sewbs^. Lit. 5e-t(?o-o«e=like-your-father. 

Mjpe, nserew. Note the negatives, see note on nsisi. No. 33. 

Obon/imtofb. For the suffix /o, see kontromfi, No. 78. 

709. Obi afuw so a, tvgmfd mpamjpd na efow, (128) 

Though some one may have a veiy large plantation, that is not to 
say people are to bring their bowls and loot. 

Afuw. A farm ; deriv. faw, to shoot up from the ground. 


Mpampa, Sing., apamjpd, a flat, wooden dish used for carrying 
plantains, yams, &c., from the farms to the house. 

Efow. Note the use of the 3rd pers. neuter pronoun for the 
3rd pers. plural. 

710. OU gyina obi^matt, na ohu-guam\ (130) 

When one stands on another's shoulders, then he sees over the 

'Maii, Deriv. 5a, hctm, and ti, 


711. OU kvoan nkye naenU de mu. (134) 

One man's road does not go far without meeting another's. 
Nkye. Lit. is not long. 

712. OU hye wo ode a, {na) woda n'aae, (135) 

When some one gives you a present, (then) you thank him. 

Ade. See note on No. 85, me dea, 

Woda n'ase. Lit. you lie at * his down ', i. e. feet. This is the 
Ashanti idiom for ' to give thanks ', and well expresses the real root 
idea of * thank you *, which is now hardly recognized perhaps by us; 
i.e. I am wnder an obligation to you, I lie down before you; said 
and understood in its literal sense in the days when the world was 
young and politeness for politeness' sake unknown. 

718, OU mfa oU ade nJioahoa neho. (137) 

No one boasts of what belongs to another. 

OU, Some one, and with neg., lit. some one not, i.e. nobody. 

Mfa . . . nhoahoa. Note the two negatives, see mfa, nsisi, 
No. 33. Boahoa is to praise, and with the reflexive pronoun 
{nehS), to praise oneself, i e. boast about. 

714. OU mfa gbomu nhow gya so, (138) 

No one takes a whole animal and dries it over a fire. 

Mfa, nhow. Note the double negative. See 9m«t, No. 33. 

OhovMi, Ahoa'^mu (mt)^ = whole), i.e. an animal that has just 
been killed but not yet flayed and cut for diying and roasting on 
a rack over the fire. 

716« OU mfa ade nkoyi mmusu tog kWtotia, na gnmn nkgfa Uo, (140) 
No one places his propitiatory offering at the entrance of the 
village, and turns back again to remove it. 


Ade nkgyi imnusu. Lit. something (i. e. eggs, &c.) to take away 
haim ; perhaps here an offering for an o6ayt/b, q. v. No. 56. 

Wg, Really a verb. Here rendered by the preposition 'at'. 
See note on No. 240. 

Onmn nkgfa. All negatives after the first verb mfa. Note the 
auxiliary verb kg in nkgfa. 

716. Obi mfa adidi mfa adepe, (141) 

One cannot both feast and become rich. 

Adidi. A noun. From reduplication of verb di, to eat, much 
eating, i.e. feasting. 

Adepe. Lit. a thing sought after, wealth. 

717. Obi mfa dgkonsin kwdnkym mmfiim nea otwaa so. (142) 

One does not take half a loaf from the wayside and then inquire 
who cut the other half. 

Mfa . . . mmisa. See note on rmd, No. 33. Mmisa, neg. of 
bisa. , 

Dgkonsin. Odgkono-sin, gdgkono^ cakes made of maize, sin, 
a piece, a part of anything. 

The writer has heard this pix)verb quoted k propos of a case 
where a man complained that some one had seduced a prostitute he 
was living with. 

718. Obi mfa fere nware obi ne nua a ne 2>ctm pgw. (145) 

No one, lest he should be called shy, would marry some one's 
sister who had a lump at the base of her spine. 

Mfa^ nware. For double negative, see note on nsisi^ No. 33. 
F&re. See note on No. 155, mfere. 
Obi nA nua. Lit. some one, his sister. 
Pdim. Pdt, the base of the spinal column. 

719. Obi mfa ahina hunu mu nkyere opanyin. (148) 

One does not show the inside of an empty pot to an elder. (Of. 
No. 382.) 

Opanyih. See note on No. 1. 

720. Obi mfa nKoma nio nsu mu nkg ahemfi, (149) 

One does not put a hide in water and then go off to the king*s 
palace (where one has been summoned). 

A hemjl = Ohene-Ji. 


This proverb is spoken by a tanner, who, summoned to the 
chiefs house, does not know how long he will be detained. 

721. Obi mfa hyirew ntiw nea watg vmram*. (150) 

No one takes white clay and follows some one who has run off to 
the forest (in order to rub it on him). 

Hyirew, White clay, used to rub on the body and face (in 
various designs) on certain ceremonial occasions, and also when 
a person accused of a crime has been acquitted. This is the sense 
in which it is used here. The man * who has run to the forest * has 
been found * guilty ', and escaped to avoid punishment. 

It is a quaint belief among these people that the Milky Way is 
white with the myriads of clay-decked bodies of the dead. 

722. Ohi mfa amanne a toahu ntutu haw, (155) 

No one tells how bad a state his affairs are really in, when asking 
for time to settle a debt. 

Amaimt a waMi, Lit. the trouble he has seen. Amanne^ not to be 
confused with amannee? what news? Amanne ^gman-ade, 
Kaw. See note on No. 54. 

723. Ohi mfa nafwru vrmmtuw hUrojpatd so na ne mfefo rUivetwe mfa 

n'ase, (156) 
No one uses his own belly to cover up his corn store, that his friends 
may pull some out from under him. 

Heard in the sense of, ' a chief is not going to allow his prestige 
to be used by others in order to extort and rob '. 

Mm/utuw, Neg. oihutvw, 

B'Wropatd, AM/r6w, com (maize), and jpdtay a rack to store 
crops on. 

724. Ohi mfa ne nan abien nsuau aau, (158) 

No one tests the depth of a river with both his feet. 

Aau. See note on No. 26, nsu, 

726. Obi mfa ne nsa benkum nkyere riagya amamfd so, (159) 

No one takes his left hand to point out his father's old village. 

Nsa benkum. Among the Ashantis it is considered particularly 
insulting to put out the left hand to take anything from another. 
It is also insulting to point out a thing with the left hand. The left 
hand, never the right (as is the case among the Hausas), is used to 


hold the stick they generally use to wipe the anus with. The left 
hand is also used to hlow the nose. 

Amamfo. The suf&x fo (nasal) is not to be confused with per- 
sonal suffix fry plur. of m. 

720, Ohi mfr ne naa nto bi anom* na ompae rCaMfi, (160) 

No one puts his finger in another man's mouth and then beats him 
over the head. 
Naa, Hand or finger, the latter is also naaiM, See note on 
No. 355, naai for names of the fingers. 

727. Ohi mfa ne «? mmdbg adibe^mma ne yomM* (161) 

No one cracks a palm nut with his own teeth and gives it to his 

Mmobo. Neg. of hobo, reduplication of ho, 

Mma. Instead of translating this by a verb, which it really is 
(as is seen by its agreement with the other negative verbs), it might 
be rendered by 'for '. See No. 14, wa. 

728. Ohi mfa toamvm mfa iikgs^e who. (168) 

No one takes a calabash without an opening in it to go and ask for 
palm oiL 
Toamvm, Toa, a gourd out of which calabashes are made ; mum, 
having no opening, the same word as mvm, deaf or dumb. Cf. 
curiously enough, our own word ' mum *, and also the Latin and 
Greek mu, representing the least sound it is possible to make with 
the lips. 

729. Ohi mfi agyama so mmu fam' mmepe ok6tokdro. (172) 

No one descends from the * gyama ' shrub to the ground and then 
says he wants a forked stick. 
Agyama, A tree with many of its branches forked. 

730. Ohi hjibefivee gdabere na ade nkyik da, (182) 

No one ever kept looking for a sleeping-place (and continued the 
search) till dawn. 
NfiUbefibee . . . nkylk. Past tenses. 

731. Ohi nhintaw nsg gya. (185) 

No one hides himself and (then) lights a fire. 

732. Ohi nhintiprekd mmg ahina, (186) 

No one breaks the water-pot the first time he stumbles. 


NhifUi, HintiWy ef. Hausa yt&n^twi. 
Mmo, From ho, 

733. Ohi fJiu ^ Ankdnd\ nkita *N*ankdn^\ nnya ^N*ankdna\ na onse 
86, * Mihui a, ankdnJa \ (189) 
No one who has seen ' Had I known, I should not . . /, who has 
laid hold of ' Had I known, I should not . . /, who has (ever) 
possessed ' Had I known, I should not . . /, would ever say 
(again) ' Had I known, I should not . . .' 

Bather a quaint and pretty proverb this. * Had I known . , .*, 
that is, remorse, regret, ' of all sad words, it might have been ', is 
here personified in the native mind, 

Ankdmi, Anka, used in the protasis and apodosis of a condi- 
tional sentence. 

734, Obi nhu nimdee nko ayi {aae) na gkgsgre a, waserew. (191) 

No one has any sense (who) goes to attend a funeral custom, and on 
rising up to take his departure, laughs. 

Nimdee, Knowledge, here, sense of the fitness of things. Deriv. 
nim, to know ; and ode, a thing. 
Waserew, Lit. has laughed. 

786. Obi nhu onipa dakoro nse no «e, ' Woafgh\ (192) 

One does not see a man for one day only (or for the first time), and 
say to him, * You have become thin '. 

Se, Note, ae is here of the nature of a true preposition, as seen 
by the absence of the negative. 
Woafoh. Aorist tense. 

736. Obi nhu onipa awia na anadwo gnsg kanea hfwe n^anim, (193) 
No one sees a man by day and at night lights a lamp to look at his 


AUbia, See note on No. 1, asase. 
Kanea. Portuguese (?). 

Nfibe, Note the distinction between Aw, to perceive, see, and 
jwe, to look at. See No. 390, hu, 

ITanim, See note on No. 80, aniwa, 

737. Obi nko obi ahwra nkyere riase* (204) 

One man does not go to the village of another and tell (the chief of 
that village) its origin (history). 
Akmra, A diminutive, for qkHrow-wa. 

l<9t M 


738. Obi nk6 obi kiMrom* nkofre neko «§, ' Agy€man\ (205) 

Ooe does not go to another's village and call himself * Agyemah \ 

Agyeman. Deriv. Agya^ gman, lit. father of a nation. 

739. Obi nk6 ahm nd onM nkwdn. (207) 

No one (who) goes begging a meal is the one to serve out the 

AhUd, A verbal noun, lit. a scraping ; hUci, to scrape the burned 
portion off a yam or plantain ; hence perhaps from this part being 
given to a beggar, by metonymy, * to beg for food *. 

Onk^. Est, to touch, handle, perhaps to stir, * dish out '. 

740. Obi anko nd obi amma a, ankci y^eye den ahu se okwan mu nye ? 

If no one had gone and no one had come, what should we have 
done to find out if the road were safe (or not) ? 

AnM. See note on No. 733. 
Ahu, Subj. mood. 

741.J Obi nkose se, * Futu nhyew / Futu hyew a, yehua bi adi \ (213) 
No one says (when the yam store is on fire), * Let the yam store 
burn ! When it does we shall scrape roasted yams to eat.' 

Yehii&. See note above. No. 739, ahUd. 
Adi, Subjunctive. 

742 . Obi nkotew bisehyim mfa mfra bisetdro nkgton mma ne mdnni, (214) 
No one picks good kola nuts and mixes them with spurious ones 

and goes and sells them to his own countrymen. 

Nkotew, mfa mfra, nkgton m/md, A good example of the idiom 
explained under note on mfa, nsisi, No. 33, q. v. See also note on 
wima, No. 727. 

Bisekyim, Biae, the kola nut and tree {Cola acuminata), Hausa 
goro. The greater part of the kola consumed in the two Nigerias 
(N, and S.) is grown in the dense Ashanti forest. Kyim = jpa, 

Bisetdro, Lit. false kola nut ; toro same root as in atoro, a lie. 

743. Obi nkwaJti kokiirobeti mm>o pgw, (221) 

No one dispenses with the thumb in tying a knot. 

Kokiirobeti, The thumb, deriv. kokuro^ big. For names of the 
fingers see note on No. 355, nsa, 
Mmo, Neg. of bo. 


744. Ohi nkyere obi se^ ' To nkyene di '. (226) 

No one shows another, saying, ' Buy salt and eat \ 

Nkyene. See note on No. 577. 

745. Obi nnim a, obi kyere, (265) 

If one man does not know, another man explains. 

746. Obi nnim adehylk mu asem, (272) 

No one knows the story of to-morrow's dawn. 

Adeky^ vmi asem. AdekyZe mu, is an adjectival phrase, quali- 
fying asem, 

747. Obi m])ej>bi yiye, (317) 

No one wishes well for another. 

One might be tempted perhaps to translate this, ^ There are some 
(lit. is one) who do (lit. does) not wish well for others * (lit. for 
another), but this would be a distoiiion of the literal words and of 
the sense. On second thoughts, the saying is not quite so callous, 
selfish, and wanting in feeling as it might appear to us. Primitive 
man had very little scope for sentimentality or even sentiment, and 
the rough, wild, dangerous life gave a man plenty to do to think of 
his own welfare without troubling overmuch about his neighbour's 
-Affairs, nor does it necessarily mean he wished his neighbour evil, 
but simply expresses the natural wish that any luck going might 
come his own way. 

748. Obi nt6 ntasu nto fam\ mfa ne tekrema mfa, (360) 

No one expectorates on the ground and then takes his tongue and 
licks it up (lit. takes it up). 

749. Obi ntiben Firaw anM-na wahoro ne tctm, (390) 

No one waits (to reach) the Volta river before washing his cloth. 

Firaw, The Volta, one of the largest rivers in the Colony, form- 
ing its eastern boundary. 

760. Obi se, gbeaoa wo a, tvunae se, * Menantew \ (408) 

When some one says he will carry you, you do not say, 'I shall 
Mmantevo, Future tense ; menantew with a narrow instead of 
a broad sound to the vowel e would be Present tense. 

761. Obi se okyen wo amirika a, hwruw fwe hwankyehy na fa ahyiri ne 

anim to no ho. (413) 
When sonie one says he can run faster than you, jump (and) fall to 

M 2 


the road-side and leave the way open for him behind and 

So typical this perhaps of the African mind, enervated (one must 
remember) by a climate that even at times converts ihe European to 
this sad philosophy. Cf. also No. 752. 

762. Obi sen wo a, m& onsen too ; na gno nso tog obi a gseh ru>, (422) 
When some one excels you, let him excel you; as for him, he again 
has some one who excels him. 

Onsen. Imperative. 

768. Biribiara nye yaw se aniwu, (464) 
There is nothing that hurts like shame. 

Aniwu, Deriv. cmi and wu. Lit. death of eye, i. e. shame. 

764. Biribi wg soro a, etwa se d>ebafam\ (472) 

Whatever is above must come down to the earth. 

A dimly conscious recognition by some native Newton of one of 
nature's great laws. Cf. Proverb No. 241. 

766. ^ Bg mena memmg wo* nye agoru, (481) 

' Hit me, but I must not hit you/ is not play. 

Menvmg. Neg. of bg, 

760. Wcibg ahina ho a, na wvhu nea gkcim da, (485) 
When you tap the pot, you see where the crack is. 

Da, Lit. lies. 

767. Wode tekrema si awowa a, wuntv/mi mpgn no. (770) 

When you place your tongue in pawn, you cannot redeem it. (A 
word once spoken cannot be unsaid.) 

Mpgn. Pgn means literally to pull off or strip off, hence to re- 
move, take back. A common use of the word is to ' dismiss ' from 
work or parade, * to break off'. Cf. the Scotch, * to scale ', meaning 
* to disperse '. 

768. Ade ketewa na wgde susuw kese. (807) 

It is a small thing that is taken to measure a big thing. 

Ade. See note on No. B5, me dea, 
Wgde. Translated by the passive. 

769. Ade-pa na etgn neko. (809) 
The good thing sells itself. 


Na, This particle marks the subject as being definite or em- 
phatic and is here rendered by the definite article. 

760. Ade yera a, na ewg nipa n8am\ (819) 

When a thing is lost, then it is in some one else's hand (possession). 

761. Wo ade ye fe a, obi na gkd, hyere wo, na enye woankam na woka. 

(822) ' 
When you possess something that is beautiful, it is some one else 
who tells you (so) and not you yourself who speak (about it). 

Na, Emphatic, translated by * it is *. 

Oka hyere. To tell ; haaa kyere, to instruct, teach. Kyere in con- 
junction with another verb almost takes the place of the English pre- 
position ' to '. In common with the genius of many African languages, 
in Ashanti verbs take the place of prepositions. 

762. Wo de anye yiye a, wonkqfa obi de nye wo de. (824) 

When what you have is not good, you do not go and take what 
belongs to some one else. 

Wo de. See note on me dea. No. 85. 

763. Dua a ebetog wo ani nOj loobu so, na toonsen dno, (994) 

You break off the point of the stick that is about to pierce your 
eye ; you do not sharpen the point. 

No. A particle introducing an adverbial clause of time (as yi). 
Lit. 'when (jio) a stick. . .' &c. 

764. Bita a eto n&m na cmo hyew, (999) 

It is the stick that the meat is roasted on that gets the end 

Na, Emphatic particle. 

766. Dua biara naow nnyd nfwiren da, (1004) 

No tree ever bore fruit without first having flowers. 

766. Dua biako nye kwae, (1006) 
One tree does not make a forest. 

Kwae, See note on No. 92, wuram\ 

767. Dv/i mfa mfe aduasH nkyea, na womfa afe Jeoro ndiie no, (1011). 
A tree does not grow bent for thirty years that one should (expect 

to) straighten it in one. 
Mfe aduasS,. Lit. thirty years, but thirty is also used to mean 


a n limber greater that can be conveDiently reckoned, and, curiously 
enough, the number 3 is sometimes used in a similar sense. The 
gap perhaps represents an immense period of progress. 

768. Dua kese bu a, brofere na est anamn/u. (1012) 

When a great tree breaks (and falls), the papaw tree takes its 

Brofere, Deriv. OhiJuroni (European) and efere, (a native in- 
digenous gourd). 

Aruinmu. Lit. in the foot (marks), i.e. instead of. 

769. Dua kese bu a, ne mma hvhu wo nehJo hwa, (1013) 

When a great tree has fallen, its children (young shoots or seeds) 
burst foiih from it in vain. (They will soon die once the sap 
lias dried up.) 

Wo, See note on No. 240. 

770. Dua si ahwra a, ne ntini wo fie, (1016) 

When a tree stands in a small village, its roots are in the houses. 

771. Dtia tan wo a, na ebu bg wo, (1020) 

When a tree hates you, it breaks (and) falls on you. 

Here the idea is of a (to us) inanimate object (possibly in 
connexion with its being the abode of a spirit), being endowed 
with a human attribute, perhaps not till something happened that 
demanded a reason^ here the falling of the tree. 

772. Wgmfd ade anum nto aduormm hZ, (1083) 
Four things are not compared wiih forty. 

Aduanum. Lit. 4x 10, four tens, tlie numbers from 20 to 90 
being so formed, 20 = two tens, 30 = three tens, and so on. The origin 
of almost all the numbers seems lost, as is usually the case. 4, anan, 
is probably the same word as anon, feet, i.e. 2 hands + 2 feet = 4. 
Edu, plur. aduj is in all probability the same root as du^ to reach, 
to arrive at, meaning all the fingers and all the toes have been 
* reached', i.e. counted. 11, 12, &c., are expressed by 10 + 1, 
10 + 2, &c. 

773. Wo fine wo fi. (1121) 

Your house is your own house. 

774. Afisem nye atamagow na wgoM ahatd gua sd. (1136) 

A private matter is not like the old cloth that has been spread to 
dry in the market-place. 


Afia&m = Ofie asem, 
AhcUd, Subjunctive. 

776, Wgbeforo dua a, wofi rHase na womfi soro. (1 145) 

When one would climb a tree, one begins from the bottom and not 
from the top. 

776. Mframa mmae a, na fweree mu ye krcind, (1152) 

It is before the wind comes that the long grass is motionless. 

Mmae, Aorist; when used as here negatively and with the 
particle a, translated by, ' before ' or ' not yet *. 

777. Afuw mu nni hirihi a, ewo kranana. (11 74) 

If a plantation has nothing else in it, it has at least silence. 
Nni, Neg. of too, to have, to possess ; see note on No. 240. 

778. Agoruy wogoro Tw tijp^, (1214) 
Play, you play with one your own size. 

Wogoro. Goro is here transitive, governing the pronoun no, in 
the accusative. Lit. * play you play it . . .' 

779. Ahina ko hyehye no, na nsu na ewom*. (1383) 

When the surface of a pot glistens, that is because there is water 
on it. 

Ahina, A baked clay pot, black and shining when wet, used 
for carrying water chiefly. 

780. Ahina bg a, na kora ata ho, (1381) 

When the water-pot breaks, the calabash in it remains (unharmed) 
beside it. 
The woman going for water carries inside the water-pot a small 
calabash for a scoop to take the water to fill the pot ; on returning, 
this is left inside and helps to prevent the water splashing about. 

781. Wo ho ye den a, wonye bdnu adwtima, (1390) 

Though you may be strong, you do not do two men's work. 

Bcmu, The numerals from 1 to 9 when qualifying a noun which 
denotes a person have the prefix ha added, e. g. haJco^ hanu, basa, &c, 
Cf. the prefix ha in Hausa, Ba-hatishay Ba-ture and Ba-ntu, 

782. Wo ho nye den a, na tmise, * Kahiri nye \ (1391) 

When you are not strong, then you say, *The head-rest is no 



783. Ahoofe nttui kaw. (1397) 
Personal beauty does not pay a debt. 

Kaw, See note on No. 54. 

784. W<^ye ajwi a, wunwu agyan. (1469) 

When you stand on (fall in ?) a trap (and are killed), you do not die 
from an arrow (wound). 

Agyan. See note on No. 522, tafoniy and No. 29. 

786. Wokan nantwi a, wokan ne dila. (1522) 

When you count cattle, you count their tails. 

Dila, Tail, lit. stick. 

786. Wokg cbiji, na gkatow ho a, wwmmiaa no agtia, (1 566) 

When you go to some one else's house, and the owner is squatting 
there on the ground, you do not ask him for a stool. 

Okotaw, See note on No. 367. 
Wummisa, Neg. of hisa. 

787. Wokg karow hi nva na touse, * Mammeto nnipa hi too ha* a, wose wo 

86, * YeanJiu onijpa a waha\ (1578) 
If you go to some one else's town and say, ' I have not met any one 
here so far (of importance)', they (the town's people will retort 
and) say, * We have not been aware that some one has come (to 
our town) '. 

Mammeto. Lit. I have not come and met. 
YeaiM, Aorist tense. 

788. Wonkoo obi afwml da a, touse, * Me nko ne kilaf6. (1587) 

If you never went to any one else's farm, (you would) say, ' I alone 
am a farmer '. 

Wonkoo. Past tense, formed by lengthening of final vowel. 

Afwmk. See note on No. 709. 

Kuafo. For suffix fo see note on No. 78, koTUronift. 

789. Yekvm hi ansd-na yeapam hi. (1816) 

Some are killed before others are put to flight. 

790. Wonkdm mmarima a, wgmfd mmea. (1819) 

If the men are not slain, the women are not caiTied off. 

791. Okwan a wunsuro mu, na ahoa kyere wo mu. (1888) 

It is the path you do not fear that the wild beast catches you on; 

Na. Emphatic particle. See No. 1. 


792. Ohwantenni nim asem-ka, na onnim aaehyere, (1901) 

The traveller (may) tell all he has seen (on his journey), but he 
cannot explain (all). 

Asekyere. Aae, lit. down, bottom, base; hence origin, meaning. 

793. Ohwanwqaao. (1893) 
A path has ears. 

• - 

794. Nkyenefi nswm! na wghcUa, na wqde gu nsum! ho ara lio, (1940) 
Salt is procured (by evaporation) from water, yet it is taken and 

put back there in the water again. 

Nhyene, See note on No. 577. 

796. Nhyene nse neho se, ' Meye de \ (1942) 

Salt does not address itself and say, ' I am agreeable (to the taste)'. 

796. Akyene anim da ho a, wonnyae nyah nkyen. (1937) 

When the face of a drum is there (to beat), you do not leave that 
to beat the side. 

Nyan, Yah, an onomatopoetic word, well illustrating the 
* yang yang * (cf. twang) given foith by the native drum. Dmms 
are here not beaten with the padded stick we generally use, and 
hence do not give out the booming sound usually associated with 
them. The drumstick is generally one bent somewhat in the 
shape of the figure 7, the face of the drum being hit with the short 

797. Wokyere onipa aktmse na wokum no a, mye no yaw. (1951) 
When you have a just reason for seizing a man and killing him, you 

do not hurt him (by doing so). 

Akunse, Deiiv. A^m and ase. Lit. 'a foundation for killing'. 

798. Nam nni ho nti na togde mmere ye hkwah, (2077) 

It is because there is no meat that mushrooms are taken to make 

Nni, Neg. of ivo. 

799. Nea wadi hem nsoaa ogtuxh da, (2150) 

He who has won his case never yet carried the sheep. 

Nsoaa. Past tense. 

Oguah, A fine, and so many sheep, is a usual judgement in native 


800. Nea wadi fg na gkasa. (2151) 

He who is guilty is the one who has much to say. 

Na, Here rendered by * the one ', emphatic. 

801. Nea gkg anadihogoru nnyh haw a, nea gda anadwo dan mu na onya 

kawana? (2186) 
When he who goes out to dance all night does not get into trouble 
(lit. debt), is he who sleeps in his bed-chamber likely to 1 

Anadwogoru. Lit. play by night. 

802. Nea togbekum wo nne ne se togbekum wo ^kyhia no ; ma wonkwm wo 

nne na kghome preko, (2195) 
They who were coming to kill you to-day, but say they will come to 
kill you on the morrow (instead), rather let them kill you to- 
day and rest the sooner. 

Wgbekum, kghome. Note the auxiliary verbs (* come ' and * go '). 
Wonkum. Imperative mood. 

803. Nea wgmpe no, wgnsan nkgfa. (2226) 
"What is not wanted is not turned back for. 

804. Nea gmjo kete gkwah mm, nk nea okotiaa so nOy hena na gyee bone ? 

Who is in the wrong, he who spread a mat on the path, or he who 
trod upon it ? 

Okotiaa, gyee. Past tenses. 

806. Nne-mma se, tete asoee, wgnsge hg bio; na den nti na worUu tete 
*muka ahieaa no biako na enka abien ? (2285) 
The children of to-day say they will not any more halt at the ancient 
halting-place (where their forefathers were wont to alight) ; 
why then do they not pull up one of the three from time 
immemorial hearth-stones and let but two remain ? 

Asoee, A noun formed from the verb 8oe, to alight. The suffix 
e or e^ means, a place where. Cf. anomee, a drinking-place, &c. 

*Muka ahiesH, The three conical hearth- stones, made of clay, on 
which the cooking-pots are placed, also called, mtikia, buhyia, 

806. Wo ani tra wo ntgn a, woyera, (2302) 

When your eyes are higher than your eyebrows (i.e. puffed up with 
pride), you get lost. 


Ani tra wo nton, * Eyes higher than eyebrows ', that is, proud, 
coDceited, exactly our own idiom * supercilious ', {mpevy above, and 
ciliumj eyelid). 

Tra. To go beyond, reach beyond, not to be confused with tena, 
trU, to sit. 

807. WumUm asaw a, na wuae, ^ Akyene nye de\ (2337) 

When you do not know how to dance, then you say, ' The drum is 
not sounding sweetly *. 

808. Wo nua s^e sd a, na eny% wo na woda so, (2504) 

Your sister's thigh may be plump, but it is not you who lie on it. 
Nua. See note on No. 37, dlmma. 

809. Nsdtea hlaJco butuwfa ade togfam* a, entvmi, (2793) 

If one finger tries to pick up something from the ground, it cannot. 

Nadtid, For names of fingers see note on No. 355, nsa. 
Wo. See note on No. 240. 

810. Asem a tvgka serew tog babi na tvgkci au tog bdbi. (2854) 

A matter which in one place is a subject of mirth, in another place 
is the cause of tears. 

WgkcL serew . . . togM su. Lit. talk (and) laugh about . . . talk 
(and) cry about. 

811. Asem a wobese na wobesan no, fa sd ma enka wo tirim, (2856) 

A word that when spoken you would wish back, let it remain 
(unspoken) in your head. 

Sd. This word is rather difficult to explain here, perhaps, ' thus '. 
Ma enka. Imperative. 

812. Asem-pa nye oM-na, (2873) 

A good case is not difficult to state. 

Oh&'n&. See note on No. 157, nye-na. 

818. Asen-kese &e&a a, gfrankd nsi so. (2901) 

When some really big business is on hand, no flag is flown. 

Asen-kese = Asem-kese {?) 

Ofranka. Probably a corruption of the English word *flag', 
applied to the emblem of the various companies. 

814. Wgso adaka a, na wgso ne mu ade. (2976) 

When a box is carried, what is inside the box is carried. 
Ne mu. An adjectival phrase qualifying ade. 


816. Aso te se nsema ; woto mu to mu a, eda, (2986) 

The ears are like a pair of scales ; when more and more are put in, 
they are weighted down (lit. sleep). 

Asd, This may be either singular or plural, as both have the 
same form, nor does the singular pronoun e in eda give any real 
clue, as the Ashanti idiom commonly uses this third person neuter 
pronoun for the third person plur. 

Naenia. See note on Ashanti scales and weights, No. 591. 

810. Qsram de hereb^e na etwa qman mu, (3043) 
The moon moves slowly, but it crosses the town. 

Osram, The moon, also gbosom. 

817. Ata-panyin nni nkyene mmd entere ata-kwmd anom!. (3148) 

The elder twin does not eat salt that it may trickle into the 
younger's mouth. 

Nni, Neg. of di. 

Ata-panyin. .The fii*st twin to be born is called <xta-panyin^ 
= elder twin; t^e second is known as obi wom\ i.e. some one is 
(left) inside. In no case is one of the twins killed (the ninth child 
among the Nkoranzas was killed). The second of the twins to be 
brought forth is considered as having precedence over the first, * the 
first merely has been sent to prepare the way for the second*. 
Twins when born are put in a basin and carried on a woman's 
head through the town, women following and singing : — 

' Wa wo nta \ 
' Wa wo nta ahien \ 
Lit. She has borne twins, 

She has borne two twins. 

Every Friday the parents of twins mash yams and eggs (o<o), in 
which the usual oil is not added, in order that the mash may be 
white. White clay is then rubbed on the wrists, and shoulders, 
and heads of the twins. The parents of twins never partake of any 
firstfruits without first making an offering to the special fetish of 
twins, Abamu. 

An Ashanti chief has always the right to claim twins as his wives. 

An attempt is always made to dress twins alike^ 

818. Wo ntama biri a, wohoro, na wonhyew. (3163) 

When your cloth is dirty you wash it, but you do not burn it. 

Wohoro, See note on No. 353. 


819. Wote nau ho reguare na obodamfo fa wo tarn a, fwefwe hi ansa-na 

woatiw no; nh wumjwra hi a, chi hesusuw se mo harm ye ahg- 
damfo. (3202) 
When you are down bathing at the water and a madman runs off 
with your cloth, look for another before you follow him, for if 
you follow him naked, some one will suppose you are both of 
you mad. 

Wote. See note on No. 366, te, 

Reguare, Present continued action, expressed by re. See a so 
note on No. 353, hohoro, 

Ohgdamfo. Bo dam, to be mad. For suffix fo see note on 
No. 78, kontromfi, 

Woatiw. Aorist tense. 

Bdnu. See note on No. 781. 

820. Tete abe, wqmfd nye nkwan. (3236) 

Old palm nuts are not used to make soup. 

Wqmfd nye. For double negative see note on No. 33, nsisi. 

821. Tete ara ne nne. (3239) 

History repeats itself. Lit. The very same ancient (things) are 

Tete. Deriv. perhaps te, to be, to live, hence by reduplication, 
to express emphasis, lasting, old. 

822. Eti nye hrqfere na woapae mu ahu mu a^em. (3265) 

The head is not the papaw fruit that it should be broken to see the 
thoughts inside. 

Brofere. See note on hrofere. No. 768. 

823. Oihia wo soro na ehyehye sd yi, na memi^ se ehehm fim\ (3524) 
The sun is up above and it can bum like this, but how much more 

(could it scorch) if it came down near to earth. 

Otbia. See note on No. 1, aaase. 
Menne. Neg. of de. 

824. fl^iase wqtra no hcmu hcmu, (3525) 

In the world all things are two and two. 

Wiase, See note on No. 1, asase. 
Bd/nu hdm/ii. See note on No. 781. 



826. Obi nkyi koko na otmi m mma. (239) 

No one makes a fowl taboo and then eats its cbickens. 

Nkyi • . . onnL For double negative see note on No. 33, nsisi. 
Onni from du 

826. Obi nkyi fete nni ne nkesua, (240) 

No one makes a vulture taboo and then eats its eggs. 

Pete, Also JcokoeaJcyL 

827« Aduan hi a wunMm hi da wg wo riS, ne wo agya muka so nOj na nea 
wukyi nen, (1030) 
Some food, the like of which you have never seen on your mother's 
or your father's cooking hearth, that is the kind you make taboo. 

iVa . . . a^ya. Note the mother is given precedence in speech as 
in reality. See notes on No. 37, abiLma, 
Mvka, See note on 805. 
Neh=iNe no. 

828. Nea akogdeh kyi ne kgm, (2172) 
What strength makes taboo is hunger. 

Kyi. See note on No. 89 and No. 132. 

829. Ohi nso dae, nkg nea togbektmi no, (339) 

No one dreams of going to where they will kill him. 

Lit. no one dreams (and) goes to . • ., i. e. no one dreams he is go- 
ing to be killed at a certain spot and deliberately goes there ; but 
the expression appears to be understood also in the loose sense in 
which we use it in English ' no one dreams of ', &c. 

830. Tetekaasdm\ (3238) 

Ancient things remain in the eai*s. (Tradition survives). 

Tete, See note on No. 821. 


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